The Urban Broadband Fund of £100m that is to be shared between the four national capitals (Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London) and a further six cities from a list of ten cities (Bradford, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow, Newcastle, Bristol, Nottingham and Birmingham) had a deadline for submissions of February 13th 2012.
At this time there has been no public announcements from the fund as to which cities have submitted bids, but a couple of areas have gone public with what they plan to do. Leeds and Bradford are submitting a joint bid and Bristol announced some detail for its £22 million project in January.
"The two cities' economies are integrally linked and are the driving force for the wider growth of the city region economy. It therefore made absolute sense to prepare a joint submission, and the funding we have bid for will enable us to transform our economies and set the standards for international competitiveness."Cllr Keith Wakefield, Leader Leeds City Council
The Leeds and Bradford bid aims to get 100 Mbps and faster broadband to some 88,000 homes and over 16,000 businesses, with a further aim of this being rolled out to a wider area over time. In addition to fixed line services, a WiFi umbrella network that will also extend along the transport links between the two cities.
The Bristol plan sounds more ambitious with talk of GigaBit Bristol, the initial area to be covered will be the area comprising Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, Harbourside and the university. This is an area with 5,000 businesses, 5,000 students and 5,000 social housing tenants. As with Leeds and Bradford WiFi is seen as a key part of the plan to provide internet access in public spaces.
The This Is Bristol article suggests Bristol lags behind Swindon in terms of WiFi coverage, but the Digital City project in Swindon lost the council some £400,000 and the last that was heard of the project was that Capita and UK Broadband (PCCW) were looking to take on the project, but visiting the UK Broadband website reveals nothing about Swindon. If you live in Swindon and know something more about the project, please email us at email@example.com.
From these two plans, it seems councils are not addressing slow-spots across their city, but trying to create an ultra-fast sector. With many areas of cities not eligible for BDUK funding, this could create a scenario where people living in villages have better connectivity than people on large estates within the outskirts of a city. The interest in WiFi is not a surprise, but with 4G roll-outs about to commence, it is a shame to not see cities pushing to ensure good voice and data coverage.