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Osborne names UK cities to land £100m broadband bonanza
Plus another £50m earmarked for 10 other areas
Budget Day 2012 The Chancellor of Exchequer George Osborne confirmed today exactly which cities in the UK will get their hands on a cash pile set aside to speed up broadband.
Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Manchester and Newcastle will be dubbed "super-connected cities" by the government at least, once they get a slice of the £100m investment fund pre-announced by Osborne last autumn.
He told the House of Commons today that:
By 2015 this will deliver ultrafast broadband coverage to 1.7 million households and 200,000 businesses in high-growth areas as well as high-speed wireless broadband for three million residents. The government will also provide an additional £50m to fund a second wave of ten smaller super-connected cities.
The Chancellor announced during his autumn statement in November that the government would take the £100m from the £5bn national infrastructure investment pot over the course of this Parliament in a move to boost broadband network speeds in selected urban areas.
"The government will invest £100m to create up to 10 ‘super-connected cities’ across the UK, with 80-100 megabits per second broadband and city-wide high-speed mobile connectivity," said the government in its National Infrastructure Programme report in late 2011.
It added at the time: "There will be a particular focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and strategic employment zones to support economic growth. Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London will all receive support from this fund, and a UK-wide competition will decide up to six further cities that will also receive funding."
That investment comes on top of the £530m Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds already dished out by the government to local authorities and Scotland.
In his budget statement today, the chancellor made no mention of rural areas that are seeking investment in getting an adequate broadband connection, however.
Julia Stent, who is director of telecoms at uSwitch.com, questioned the government's motives.
"Whilst funding earmarked for ultra-fast broadband in 10 UK cities is both ambitious and heartening, and will undoubtedly benefit technology companies looking to develop and expand in the UK, the primary concern should be the provision of a quality service to rural areas before pursuing the title of fastest broadband in the world," she cautioned.
"Although there are still broadband blackspots and speed issues in some urban areas of the UK, we worry that the major towns and cities will speed ahead of the rest of the country in the premature quest to become fastest in the world." ®