Broadband connectivity in Newcastle is set for a massive boost after the city council secured up to £6m from Government.
Residents and businesses will benefit from wider connectivity and faster broadband speeds after the council’s proposals won the backing of Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) at the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).
The money is a welcome boost for the council’s stated objectives of promoting wellbeing, equality and quality of life.
The money will be used to work up proposals for improved wireless and Wi-Fi connectivity on the Metro allowing much faster internet connections for passengers throughout their journey, and to develop a state-of-the art cloud computing centre in the city with Newcastle University.
Small and medium sized businesses will also be able to apply to the council for up to £3m worth of vouchers to pay for the installation of Next Generation Access (NGA) Broadband, and £1m will be invested in improving wireless access to the internet particularly in public buildings and in the City Centre and on district high streets.
Leader of Newcastle City Council Cllr Nick Forbes said: “This is great news for the city. It will transform the way that people go about their daily lives and bring massive benefits to residents, visitors and businesses.
“Over 40,000 adults in Newcastle have never used the internet so I am delighted that we have secured this funding to get more people connected to the web.
“Never before has it been more important for people have access to the internet especially now that the Government requires people to fill out welfare forms on line.
“Ultrafast broadband today is essential, and it’s a key part of being a modern European city. Having wi fi on the Metro brings 21st century services to our transport infrastructure.
“Getting everyone connected is a real challenge but it is something we are determined to do - not through coercion but - by demonstrating the benefits.”
In the 2011 Autumn statement the Chancellor announced that 10 UK cities would share £100m to develop super-connected status. But following legal complaints from BT and Virgin Media that state money could benefit rival companies the Government has renegotiated the terms of the agreement with all of the cities.
Newcastle has been told it can now work on projects up to £6m after being told that its new proposals had met with the parameters of the new scheme.
The Cloud Computing Centre with Newcastle University will be built on the former brewery site, Science Central, a mixed use development site for leading edge scientific businesses, research facilities plus public space and housing.
This bespoke building on Science Central will provide co-location facilities for research, teaching, training, industry, SMEs and public sector organisations. This facility will attract businesses to co-locate with the University and on Science Central.
Newcastle University’s Barry Hodgson, who is leading on the project, explained: "The Cloud Centre offers us a unique opportunity to gather and analyse huge amounts of data much more quickly and present them in a way that is meaningful to the customer.
“The centre will also act as a test-bed for us to develop new applications and services by extracting more value from massive data sets, it provides training opportunities to fill the skills gap we currently have in this highly-specialised but rapidly growing area and in turn builds on our world-leading reputation in cloud computing and big data.”
Proposals to develop wireless connectivity on the Metro system are at an early stage but could bring benefits to 37 million passengers a year.
Tobyn Hughes, Deputy Director General of Nexus, which owns, manages and is modernising Metro, said: “We were the first in the UK to give Metro passengers mobile phone reception throughout their journey.
"This funding commitment will let us develop proposals for improved wireless and Wi-Fi connectivity allowing much faster internet connections for passengers throughout their journey.”