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What is the Research & Innovation Fibre Ring & Why Does it Matter?

Last Thursday (13th Feb) Brighton & Hove City Council approved a project that we have been working on called the Research and Innovation Fibre Ring. This blog is about what is it and how might it benefit you.

What is a Research and Innovation Fibre Ring?

In essence, it is the installation of a 5.5km circuit of underground ducting in central Brighton that will carry fibre cables. The route of the ring means it connects New England House (and the FuseBox and Brighton Digital Exchange located there), the MET College’s new digital and creative centre in Pelham Street, the Brighton Dome and Corn Exchange, and key university sites.

So, what does that mean for me and my business?

First, as its name suggests, it increases the opportunities for innovation in the city. Wired Sussex has been working closely with the Brighton Dome and the Digital Catapult helping those working in the cultural and creative industries to understand and use new emerging technologies (including 5G connectivity) to improve what they do and how they do it. Over 250 businesses have already benefitted from our FuseBox innovation hub and some of the most recent were showcased in an event at the Dome in November. With this new fibre connectivity we can extend and expand that activity, working together to support even more innovators and growing Brighton’s reputation for bringing creativity to tech innovation, and technology to creative innovation.

Second, the ring will pass close to hundreds of businesses, providing them with an opportunity, should they wish, to access the ring and its fibre and upgrade their connectivity, or to link with the Brighton Digital Exchange to enable them to back up data to secure local servers. Or businesses could even lay their own fibre in the duct (as the council itself plans to do). 

Third, it sustains Brighton’s reputation for being a place where different, interesting things happen. The more we are known for that, the more we all benefit. It helps attract the interest of talent, of clients and of investment to our city and that supports the ongoing success of everyone in our sector.

How is this different and interesting?

What is special about this ring is the ownership and management model. The ring will be publicly owned by the council, not by a big network provider (as is commonly the case), with access to the duct and the fibre managed by an independent cooperative. This ensures that access is open, that decisions are democratic and that its major assets are held in common. In a city of primarily small businesses, this helps level the playing field for them, providing entrepreneurs with opportunities to access and utilise more of our digital infrastructure. That wouldn’t be the case with a different, closed model.

Who else is involved?

Beside ourselves, there were many individuals, businesses and organisations involved in the planning and development of this project, and many more will be involved in its delivery. These include the Dome, the college, the universities and the council, the national Digital Catapult, and many brilliant and supportive Wired Sussex members including Fastnet, NetFuse, ZoomTalk, Curve IT and Brandwatch.

What’s next?

Now the detailed planning of the programme of works begins, with the ring expected to be operational in less than 12 months. We will let you know how it goes!

About the author

Phil Jones

Hi, I'm the Director of Innovation and Projects at Wired Sussex, I deliver our portfolio of regional creative technology projects and support our innovation hub, the FuseBox.

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