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Firms and homes in parts of central Manchester are to get high-speed fibre broadband as a result of a £500,000 project funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency and backed by Manchester City Council.

The project is the first phase in a new digital infrastructure for the city. It will directly connect 500 businesses and 1,000 homes in the Oxford Road area with fast fibre optic broadband access. Target access speeds are 100mbps.

BT has delivered similar fibre broadband speeds to firms and residents in part of Ebbsfleet in Kent. Virgin Media is currently selling 50mbps fibre broadband packages in its cable network areas.

Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said, "Even at this time of economic downturn Manchester has ambitious plans for its knowledge economy. We are committed to delivering next-generation broadband, and this new advanced infrastructure will help create exciting and innovative new applications for the internet, which will benefit our residents and businesses."

Jackie Potter, chief executive of the Corridor Manchester development consortium, said, "One of the key aims for Corridor Manchester is to drive economic growth in the Oxford Road area of the city. By providing high-speed broadband we can not only help the universities, schools and hospital network enhance their services, but also attract new businesses to the city."

It is expected that work to install the fibre network will begin in the summer, with the first cluster of properties online by the end of the year.

Once the first phase of fibre installation is completed, it is intended to expand the project by rolling it out across Manchester, starting with the east Manchester area, which includes deprived areas of the city.

Expansion plans include the creation of a new internet infrastructure hub at the former Sharp factory site at Newton Heath, east Manchester.



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