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Brighton and Hove loses out on ultra fast broadband cash
A city’s bid to secure ultra-fast broadband has hit the buffers.
NowBrighton and Hove City Council has launched a ‘Plan B’ voucher scheme to help businesses bring their internet speeds up to scratch.
Following an Argus-backed campaign, Chancellor George Osborne announced last December the city would receive the ultra-fast funding as part of a £50 million scheme.
But the scheme has been stymied by competition authorities in Brussels who have refused to sign off the deal. The bureaucrats have insisted the contracts can only go to ‘open access providers’ which would rule out major suppliers such BT.
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More than 99 per cent of Brighton and Hove is already covered by superfast broadband.
Ultrafast broadband provides a minimum download speed of at least 80 megabits per second - more than three times faster than ‘superfast’ broadband.
Brighton and Hove City Council plans to introduce a voucher scheme to allow businesses to apply for grants of up to £3,000 to cover the costs of installing faster and better broadband into their premises.
The news comes as the council’s plans for the installation of free Wi-Fi across the city by Metro Wireless have been held up by legal wrangling.
Councillor Jason Kitcat, leader of the council, said: “The provision of a total ultrafast broadband coverage within the city centre was an exciting proposition. However the government’s system for funding has changed and we’ve had to change our plans accordingly.
“While we are disappointed the ultra-fast infrastructure build element of the government funding cannot proceed as anticipated, we have submitted an alternative plan to expand broadband provision in the city.
“The new proposals have an emphasis on providing vouchers for small and medium sized businesses to install their own high speed connections. We are also exploring other more innovative solutions that will deliver high speed connectivity to the businesses that need it.
“The aim is to further the future growth potential of the city’s strong digital sector for the benefit of residents and businesses.”
Phil Jones, managing director at Wired Sussex, an association of digital companies, said: “In partnership with the council, our MPs and the Argus, Wired Sussex put a lot of effort into winning Government funding to accelerate the provision of business quality broadband in Brighton.
“We did so because it is a vital piece of the infrastructure our digital sector needs to sustain its growth and help our city prosper.
“We are naturally really disappointed after winning the funding, the Government revised the rules as to what it could be spent on.
“However, you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and get on with it and we will continue to work with the Council to make sure the broadband funding is used in as effective a way as possible.”
Alex Morrison, boss at digital company Cogapp in Dyke Road, said: “It’s a shame this has happened but we are working with the council and Government to see if there are ways around the Brussels impasse.”
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