High-speed fibre broadband will be extended to a further 39,000 homes and businesses in Greater Manchester by the end of March 2016, following a £15 million partnership project announced recently between eight local authorities and BT.
Councils in Stockport, Bolton, Wigan, Bury, Tameside, Oldham, Trafford and Rochdale are working with BT to supply superfast broadband to town centres and key business districts. The plans could see an £80 million boost to Greater Manchester’s economy and the creation of around 500 new jobs.
As part of the partnership, BT is contributing £4.6 million towards the overall cost of deployment in ‘non-commercial’ areas, and the eight councils are investing £2.5 million. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is contributing nearly £5 million, with a further £3 million coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund.
The partnership builds on BT’s ongoing commercial fibre deployment which will bring fibre broadband to nearly one million premises in Greater Manchester by the end of Spring 2014 – with more than 900,000 homes and businesses already passed with fibre.
Eamonn Boylan, Chief Executive of Stockport Council, lead local authority for the project, said: “We want to see Greater Manchester become one of the world’s top digital cities by 2020. The eight local authority areas, with their active local business communities, will play a crucial role in this.
“Access to fast and reliable broadband is becoming increasingly important for homes and businesses. These proposals would ensure local businesses can make the most of digital technology – boosting the local economy, generating growth, creating jobs and attracting further investment.”
Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, commented: “Access to high-speed broadband is rapidly becoming a key ingredient for economic growth and is also a major determining factor in where businesses decide to locate.
“Fibre broadband opens up a whole raft of leading edge software applications that will benefit businesses – allowing them to work more efficiently, enabling people to work when and where they want to, as well as expanding their business offerings and connecting with customers, not just locally but all over the world.”
For local businesses, the fibre network will underpin the introduction of many new services and applications. Big business applications driven by new ‘cloud’ services will be within the reach of enterprises of all sizes. Computer back-up, storage and processing will be faster, and the use of high-quality videoconferencing will become a viable possibility.
Further benefits of faster broadband include users being able to use multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time, and send and receive large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently. This will make things like gaming, watching video or downloading films and music much quicker and without annoying ‘buffering’ or screen freeze.
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey, said: “This is fantastic news for the 39,000 homes and businesses in Greater Manchester that will benefit from this £15 million project. The UK already does more business online than any other European country, and widespread access to superfast speeds will provide a tremendous boost to the economies of all eight local authority areas involved.”
Sir Howard Bernstein, Vice Chair of the North West European Regional Development Fund Local Management Committee and Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, added: “This programme will help local businesses make the most of superfast broadband, improving performance and helping to create and safeguard jobs. It will provide a major boost to the economy across Greater Manchester and we are pleased that ERDF have been able to support it financially.”
Chair of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and Leader of Wigan Council, Lord Peter Smith, welcomed the news, commenting: “This is fantastic news for Greater Manchester, with faster and more reliable broadband making it an attractive place to live and do business. Research shows that improving the connectivity of an area can have a positive impact on the overall economy, encouraging investment and with it, jobs.”