Super-connected cities plan hailed a success, says digital minister Ed Vaizey

Government minister Ed Vaizey writes about the roll-out of the super-connected cities initiative

If it’s true to say – and it is – that the internet as a means of communication, recreation, education and commerce, is the most significant development in civilisation this century, then the need to provide free and fast access to it has to be one of our greatest imperatives.

People have been saying that it’s a small world for many generations, but this has never been more the case than it is today. In business, to be behind the chase is to be out of the race, so the government decided right from the start that intervention to ensure that Britain and British business could be a real player in this arena was essential.

The super-connected cities initiative, which finishes at the end of March 2015, was what we came up with. And what a success it has been. 

New figures show that, across the UK in our 22 target cities, more than 14,000 small businesses have taken up broadband grants of up to £3,000 each. And free public Wi-Fi is now installed in more than 1,000 buildings there too, while around 1,400 trains, trams and buses also have it fitted as standard.

What’s even better is that the £3,000 grants we have been making available to businesses towards installation costs, have been such a runaway success that we’re extending eligibility to a further 28 cities. And a popular variation of the basic package – allowing group applications to help cover costs where bigger or more complicated premises are involved – remains part of the deal.

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If we quickly whizz around the UK, we find numerous examples of projects that the initiative has funded – such as an internet exchange in Cardiff that’s supporting firms across all of South Wales; or a digital exchange in Brighton, connecting the high-tech digital clusters on the south coast with London and the world; or the £1m cloud computing centre in Newcastle at the university, which is playing a big part in helping that city become a digital centre of excellence.

Further north still, we find a £1.74m project in Aberdeen for four university/small business incubators to provide connectivity and cutting-edge technology to help small firms grow fast in the granite city. And there are similar success stories in Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester, Derby and many other places.

So the success of super-connected cities is being felt in all corners of the UK. If the winners were exclusively to be found in just one part of the country, we’d be selling the country as a whole short. 

As it is, the future’s looking good, the future’s looking superfast.

Ed Vaizey, MP (pictured) is the government minister for culture, communications and the creative industries.

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