Plans for a citywide broadband network in Stoke-on-Trent with one of the fastest internet speeds in the UK have been unveiled.
The proposals will be funded by £9.2 million from a Government grant, announced in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council would own and operate the 60-mile network, with the potential to provide full fibre broadband for tens of thousands of homes and businesses, and a much needed service within the city.
The plans build on an initial pilot scheme in the Etruria Valley area of the Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone, which was revealed last year.
Stoke-on-Trent would be one of the first cities in the UK to create a gigabit network of this kind.
A report going to the council’s cabinet tomorrow, Tuesday (March 19) will ask for approval to award a contract for the citywide project to delivery partner VX Fiber.
The report says the plans would attract more investment, businesses and jobs to the area, help to boost provision for residents, and aim to make the broadband market in Stoke-on-Trent more competitive. It also says the network would:
· Create jobs during the installation work;
· Help businesses to improve productivity, increase innovation and promote flexible working;
· Help to increase the number of new business start-ups in the city;
· Increase our investment profile as the city builds on its strong growth potential
· Deliver social value, such as helping to reduce isolation and increase community engagement;
· Provide the potential for 5G services;
· Deliver savings for health care providers;
· Help the youngest and most vulnerable residents to access learning tools and information they may not have otherwise been able to.
The proposed network would deliver gigabit speeds – 1,000 megabits per second or above – helping Stoke-on-Trent stand out and making the city even more attractive and an even better place to invest.
For example, on standard broadband (known as ADSL) at speeds of 20mbps it takes about 32 minutes to download a two-hour HD movie. Even with speeds of around 80mbps – known as ‘superfast’ – it takes about 4.5 minutes. With the proposed new network’s ultrafast speeds, the same download would be complete in around 25 seconds.
Uploading files would also improve. For example, uploading 1GB of photos currently takes about three hours and 58 minutes at 20mbps or 17.5 minutes at 80mbps. At ultrafast speeds it would take eight seconds.
The proposal for the network is based on a business model which has been used in a number of European countries, and where the UK has for some time now been lagging well behind.
The fibre in the network would be owned and operated by the city council and made available to private internet service providers through an open access platform.
Conservative Councillor Daniel Jellyman, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for regeneration, transport and heritage, said: “A fast broadband connection is now an essential service for residents and businesses and with these plans Stoke-on-Trent will be leading the way nationally – helping us to attract even more top companies, jobs and investment.
“The new network would have a huge, long-term impact, helping to future proof our city and transform communities with improvements such as better access to employment, education and healthcare.
“The revenue from the ownership of the broadband network would also provide income for the council which can help us to fund the vital services which residents rely on.
“This is a major project for Stoke-on-Trent and will play a key part in our plans for Stoke-on-Trent to become a smart city – using infrastructure, information and technology to improve life for everyone who lives, works and visits here.”
The installation of the citywide network would start in April and be completed by spring 2021.
Subject to approval at the cabinet meeting, a final business case will set out details of the proposed rollout across Stoke-on-Trent.
Conservative Minister for Digital Margot James said: “We’re building a Britain that’s fit for the future, and our plans for a national full fibre broadband network underpin our modern Industrial Strategy. This £9.2 million boost for gigabit speeds in Stoke-on-Trent will build on the tremendous work already being done by the city council, and I congratulate them on what they have already achieved.”