Belfast Telegraph

Cash boost for Belfast superfast 1Gbps broadband

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Belfast is to be given a multi-million pound cash boost to help it become one of the most connected places in Europe.

The City Council has been guaranteed £6m but could receive up to £13.7m if the Government approves its plans to deliver ‘ultra fast’ fibre optic-based broadband services to businesses and homes over the next three years.

That plan is for 1Gbps services — a gigabit per second. Belfast is one of 10 municipal areas across the UK to benefit from the £100m Urban Broadband Fund (UBF).

It is hoped this new ‘super-connected’ status will stimulate growth and help attract foreign investment from the IT sector. Sinn Fein’s Mairtin O Muilleoir said the news was the “icing on the cake” in terms of investment for the city.

“When you consider that Dublin spent €200,000 on the same scheme — you can see the difference in terms of spend.

“There is a digital divide (in this city). This application is unprecedented. The plan put forward would transform that — there would be no one on the margins.They would have broadband access to some of the fastest broadband in Europe.

“This is a red letter day for the council. We did have a massive welcome for the investment package but this is the icing on the cake. Belfast was the greatest shipbuilding city — we could become the best connected city.”

The Government believes the new scheme will deliver faster fixed-line broadband to around 1.7m premises across the UK and 200,000 businesses by 2015, while the wireless infrastructure will be rolled out to almost three million residences.

Edinburgh, Cardiff, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle could also benefit.

DUP councillor Gavin Robinson described the investment as “hugely significant”.

“Belfast is becoming a multi-media hub — a creative hub — and we should be doing everything in our power to improve the overall product,” he said. “Congratulations are owed to our officers for seizing the opportunity and ensuring that Belfast can produce.”

Speaking after the meeting, Sinn Fein councillor Deirdre Hargey, chairman of Belfast City Council’s strategic policy and resources committee, described the news as a terrific boost.

“The bid was made in line with the council’s ongoing commitment to investment in the future of the city.”

Background

In November Chancellor George Osborne said 10 cities would share in a £100m Urban Broadband Fund and become super-connected, with 80-100 megabits per second broadband access. As part of their proposals to access the money, each city submitted a bid to show how they would use super-connected status to drive growth with particular focus on employment zones and city-wide high-speed mobile connectivity.

Belfast Telegraph

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