Newcastle is to become one of the UK’s first super-connected cities in a scheme that will boost the city’s economy by a predicted £150 million. Go Digital Newcastle, a government scheme delivered by Newcastle City Council, will see 97% of Newcastle given access to superfast fibre broadband by 2015, free Wi-Fi in Newcastle City Centre, a cloud computing centre, business connection vouchers and a business support programme.
The UK Broadband Impact Study published this year by analysts SQW concluded for every £1 invested in broadband by government the UK economy will benefit by £20.
Newcastle Council leader Cllr Nick Forbes said: “Superfast broadband can help turn local heroes into superheroes – our city-based businesses can use the faster speeds to reach new markets and products and compete on both a national and international scale.
“The economic benefits to the city will be significant and further cement Newcastle’s reputation as an exciting place to live and work.
“Go Digital Newcastle will boost the local economy and help create and protect local jobs.”
Newcastle is one of 22 super-connected cities where small businesses (SMEs), charities and social enterprises can apply for connection vouchers worth up to £3,000 to get connected to high speed/high grade broadband with one of nearly two hundred registered suppliers.
Visitors to the city and people needing internet access while on the move will have access to free Wi-Fi across the city and in public buildings, in high streets and there are plans to bring it onto the Metro
Newcastle householders will also benefit if they choose to upgrade to fibre broadband at home. Superfast connection speeds mean everyone in the family can do their own thing online at the same time, from downloading HD movies to file sharing, accessing public services and chatting to friends and family on Skype.
Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne Central said Newcastle needs to be at the heart of the digital economy and Go Digital Newcastle’s superfast broadband has a critical part to play.
“Good connections bring huge benefits to people both in their work and in their home life. They will make Newcastle even more attractive to organisations looking for a base with world-class connections, while enhancing the activities of our local businesses, helping create and safeguard jobs.”
Under the Go Digital Newcastle initiative, BT was awarded the contract to deploy fibre broadband across the city. Previously, broadband was mostly carried on copper cables. Now, copper is being replaced by state-of-the-art fibre optic cabling to cabinets in streets across Newcastle, delivering speeds of up to 80Mbps – most businesses and homes will be able to access 30Mbps or higher.
The network will be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis, so householders and businesses will benefit from a highly competitive market.
Commenting Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, said: “Already in Newcastle more than 66,000 homes and businesses can access fibre broadband on BT’s network and this figure grows daily. Many local businesses are already feeling the benefits. But I hope our investment in and partnership with Go Digital Newcastle will help to push fibre as far as it can go in a city being branded as ‘tech’s best kept secret’ and ‘the place to be for digital start-ups outside London.’”
Around £9m of public funding is being put into Go Digital Newcastle.