Newcastle’s prestigious Eldon Garden shopping centre is celebrating a milestone in the city’s Go Digital Newcastle project.
Both storekeepers and customers at the prime retail venue are set to benefit as it receives the 100th connection voucher from the council-run scheme, funded by the government’s Super-Connected Cities programme.
Thanks to Go Digital Newcastle, SMEs, charities and social enterprises in Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside can apply for the vouchers - worth up to £3,000 each - towards getting connected to superfast broadband.
Landlords can apply for multiple vouchers on behalf of their tenants, and the 100th voucher is one of a batch of 18 secured by Eldon Garden. It will increase their tenants’ internet connection speed from less than10mbps to an amazing 300mbps.
Operations manager Dave Mains said: “When we first heard about Go Digital Newcastle, we thought we could only apply for one voucher for ourselves.
“But then we found out that as commercial landlords we could apply for a number of vouchers on behalf of our tenants across the whole centre.”
Eldon Garden has teamed up with superfast broadband supplier Metronet (UK) to install the service via radio dish to minimise any disruption during the busy Christmas shopping period.
Dave said: “The upgrade in speed is going to be astonishing. Currently, we have a very slow connection that drops out all the time, but once we have 300mbs our tenants will be able to do so much more.
“Retailers work hand-in-hand with online services and sales these days, so superfast broadband can be a real boost for business.”
State-of-the-art fibre broadband means businesses can reach their customers more easily with online marketing including videos and high-quality pictures, set up and maintain online ordering services and store their data safely and securely.
Dave said: “As landlords, we are delighted – upgrading to superfast broadband means our retail units are much more attractive to tenants.
“Previously, each tenant had to organise their own broadband, which could take a while. Now, though, the top-quality broadband is ready and waiting for them to use as soon as they move in, which is a tremendous boost for business.”
Eldon Garden also plans to sign up for the 12 hours of free business support that is also on offer. Go Digital Newcastle Business Support, funded through the European Regional Development Fund, ranges from one-to-one advice to masterclasses and workshops on online marketing and social media skills.
Eldon Garden is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year as one of Newcastle’s premier shopping venues. It is home to more than 20 quality retailers including Rohan, The Pen Shop, Bravissimo and the Sony Centre, as two cafes and attracts thousands of shoppers each week.
Cllr Michael Johnson, Newcastle City Council Deputy Cabinet Member for Skills, Business and Enterprise, said superfast broadband speeds can help futureproof retailers as more and more business is done online.
“We’re delighted that the retailers in Eldon Gardens are joining the superfast revolution,” he said.
“The businesses in the shopping centre benefit and the landlord’s property is made even more attractive to new tenants.
“Also, customers coming to Eldon Garden to do their shopping will be able to enjoy the connectivity too – maybe checking their emails or browsing online while they’re having a cuppa.”
Kate Rennicks, Head of Digital Development at ISP Metronet (UK) said: “The Government’s is making a difference to businesses.
“Superfast Internet services boosts business, improving efficiency, reducing overheads and in some cases increasing turnover. Metronet (UK) is new to the city and we are looking forward to providing a different approach to broadband.
“Superfast connectivity should be a right not a privilege and the Government voucher scheme makes it easier than ever to get connected.”
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “World class connectivity is one of our top priorities – broadband in the UK is already regarded as being among the best in Europe.
“Our broadband connection voucher scheme is providing faster and more reliable internet access to thousands of businesses across the UK. There’s still time to apply, and I urge all eligible small businesses in Newcastle to do so right away.”