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Council bosses: Gigabit broadband can futureproof cities

Thursday, August 20th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Ultrafast broadband is vital for cities to develop and regenerate, council bosses from two ‘gigabit cities’ have said.

Martin Reeves, CEO of Coventry City Council, and Roy Grant, head of ICT at City of York Council, said ultrafast broadband is bringing benefits to both cities, from meeting manufacturing needs to drawing in tourists.

In an interview with the Official Broadband World Forum blog, Mr Reeves and Mr Grant described the benefits Coventry and York had realised from becoming gigabit cities.

The Broadband World Forum, described as the world’s largest telecoms, media and technology event, is being held at London’s ExCel centre in October.

Mr Reeves said investing in a ‘fibre ring’ around Coventry was “really quite visionary” and would futureproof the city for the next decade or two.

He said the city’s ultrafast broadband capability is increasingly integral to the manufacturing needs of established companies like Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin and BMW, as well as encouraging new sectors like gaming and wearable technologies.

“It means that, while we’re using digital to keep our automotive sector future proof and grow it, we’ve also got the digital sector itself growing too.

“Even sectors we need to make more of, like the tourism, hospitality, and service sectors – these are increasingly going to be defined, modelled and remodelled by the power of digital.”

Mr Reeves said Coventry’s gigabit speeds are only the beginning and will open up more options for the future.

'Distant cultures'

Roy Grant, head of ICT at City of York Council, said the effort of becoming a gigabit city had already paid off, with companies drawn to it because of its connectivity.

He said improved connectivity had also bolstered the city’s tourism trade.

“The question is always, how can we retain those people longer in York? How can we drive that number up?,” he said.

The city now offers free city centre 24/7 wi-fi which it sees as a way of stimulating tourists, especially as it attracts increasing numbers from the Far East.

“For visitors coming from such distant cultures, digital becomes increasingly important, and York’s city centre wi-fi is not only free, but multilingual,” Mr Grant said.

“We’ve actually produced a Visit York guide, which includes child-friendly wi-fi, and is now being deposited in the airports in China, so people are picking up what’s available in York before they actually step on a plane.”

Ultrafast fibre also brings wider social benefits, such as helping social care work, he added.

Mr Reeves and Mr Grant will be part of an interactive discussion, ‘What does it take to Deliver Gigabit Cities?’ at this Broadband World Forum.

The UK government’s superfast broadband programme will be high on the agenda at this year’s Broadband World Forum, organisers have said.

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