Budget 2012: ‘Super-connected cities’ Announced

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Chancellor George Osborne has announced which cities will benefit from a £100m pot of Treasury cash aimed at making them “super-connected”.

These are London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle.

He also announced a further £50m to improve net access in “smaller cities” and pledged a tax credit scheme for the video games industry.

Mr Osborne said that he wanted the UK to become “Europe’s technology centre”.

The super-connected cities were first announced in Mr Osborne’s autumn statement when he pledged £100m to create 100Mbps (megabit per second) citywide networks in 10 urban areas.

By 2015 it is hoped the investments in cities will provide ultrafast broadband coverage to 1.7 million households and high-speed wireless broadband for three million residents.

The government will also provide an additional £50m to fund a second wave of 10 smaller super-connected cities

The chancellor also announced plans to extend mobile coverage to 60,000 rural homes and along at least 10 key roads by 2015, including the A2 and A29 in Northern Ireland, the A57, A143, A169, A352, A360 and A591 in England, the A82(T) in Scotland and the A470(T) in Wales, subject to planning permission.

Funding would come out of the £150m investment announced in the Autumn Statement.

The government will also consider whether direct intervention is required to improve mobile coverage for rail passengers.

Andrew Ferguson, editor of Thinkbroadband, commented, “Broadband is moving up the infrastructure ladder, and the 2012 Budget recognises its importance to underpinning business, both those engaged directly in digital content creation, and more traditional businesses.

Good broadband infrastructure is a major part to competing in the global export market, where the Chancellor set out a goal of doubling our levels of exports. To this end there was the announcement of which ten cities would benefit from a share of a £100 super-connected city fund, the ten are Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and London.

This £100m had been previously announced, with cities submitting proposals from which the winners were selected, it appears the lobbying by Brighton and Hove has been noticed, with a further £50m to be made for smaller cities around the UK to support them in moving beyond superfast broadband to the area of ultra-fast broadband and Wi-Fi.

The level of funding is at a low enough level, that it should not cause distortion to the market, but should allow cities to ensure that commercial operators provide service across all parts of a city, rather than the patchy nature many suffer.

Whether this will be enough to pull the UK ahead of the pack, and accelerate ahead of the rest of Europe and compete with the Far East with regards to broadband infrastructure, the amounts seem small, but as with the BDUK spending, £100m from Westminster, will be match funded by the local authority and similar funding from private companies, meaning that there may actually be £300m or more to spend in these ten cities.”