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Fighting for Better Broadband for Brighton

Today (17th September) Brighton & Hove Council submitted the city’s bid for government funding to improve our business broadband infrastructure – The Ultra Fast Broadband Bid.

Wired Sussex has put a lot of time into supporting and collaborating on the bid – we have met with the head of UK broadband strategy at the Government (twice), with those who have submitted previously successful bids at Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham, with the senior management at Virgin and BT and with the Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey. We have spoken about the bid at the Westminster Forum and last week Wired Sussex sponsored an event at the House of Commons hosted by local MP Caroline Lucas. We worked closely with the selected bid consultants Mott Macdonald on developing the vision and the evidence base for Brighton’s bid.

We did all this because we recognise the importance to our member companies of Brighton having an infrastructure which supports their ambitions to create, innovate and prosper.

The two key infrastructural issues that you consistently tell us are paramount are workspace and broadband. In fact as part of this bid, we mapped where digital and tech companies are most heavily situated and overlaid that with a map which showed where broadband coverage is weakest (the so-called ‘white spots’). It showed that some of the worst coverage in the city is precisely where digital, media and technology companies are most prolific. It's a fact that broadband coverage in Brighton & Hove is better in the suburbs of the city than in some of the key business areas of the Lanes, North Laine, New England Quarter, etc.

This is a very competitive fund to bid for. 26 other cities have indicated that they are bidding with a total available sum of only £50m. We will find out the result of our bid in November as part of the Government's mini-budget.  If successful, the bid should release around £5m+ of additional funds to the city to support significantly enhanced broadband and Wi-Fi coverage across our key central business areas. We are bidding into a fund which is really designed for businesses rather than public sector or consumer use (and at around 100mg symmetrical capacity it is far more than any but the most data hungry consumer currently needs), but we believe that the city can leverage this capacity to deliver social benefits too, supporting more effective delivery of public services, enhancing third sector organisations, enabling open data ambitions and ensuring that schools have the capacity they need in a digital world.

Including extended Wi-Fi capacity in the bid is key. The work of the Brighton Fuse research project has clearly demonstrated that many of those who need high and stable levels of broadband capacity work in flexible and non-traditional ways. This includes the significant pool of high quality freelance talent in Brighton, a key element in our business success. Any digital connectivity strategy means ensuring that they (you?) can access adequate capacity where they need to, when they need to.

Many people helped put this bid together. It was accompanied by letters of support from all 3 local MPs – Caroline Lucas, Simon Kirby and Mike Weatherly  - and the bid was signed by the leader of the Conservative and Labour groups on the council as well as Green Party council leader Jason Kitcat. The Argus were key in supporting the original Let Brighton Bid campaign that first opened the way for our city to put in this submission today. Particular thanks has to go to the people and businesses who help us compile the evidence base for the bid including the Sussex Innovation Centre,  The Skiff, Latest TV, Plug-In Media, GSB Associates, Cubeworks, Comms IntelligenceHazlitt Eastman and Scramboo (apologies if I have missed anyone out!).

And after all that work, well I only hope we are bloody successful. If we are, the first round of drinks at our next meet-up is on us!

About the author

Phil Jones

Hi, I'm the Managing Director of Wired Sussex, overseeing our strategy as an organisation and work to promote our membership and its needs to local, national and international stakeholders, including government.

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