Our ambition back then was to ensure that Bristol benefitted from a “world class digital infrastructure.”
Specifically, we talked about a “Next Generation (Gigabit) Network” and noted that “the project is seeking £4m Government funding to engage a telecommunications provider to roll out Ultrafast broadband to business, social housing, University halls, and residential consumers across a Central Zone designated as the Digital Enterprise Zone (see Figure 1).”
For lots of reasons - but mainly concern about State Aid challenges from Industry to Government, this Vision never came to full fruition although many parts of it did.
We secured c.£9m Super Connected Cities Funding and set up Bristol is Open as a research and development network; created a concession to exploit B-net - the council’s directly owned duct network and helped many of the region’s SME’s access super fast broadband via the Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme. We even inspired the private sector to start offering their own ‘GigaBit Bristol” services, competition in the market being a good thing.
So it is with great anticipation that I note the Government’s launch of the £190m Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) Challenge Fund The aim is to stimulate commercial investment in full fibre networks across the whole of the UK, including rural and urban locations, by demonstrating approaches that encourage additional private investment and by making sustainable commercial deployments viable. Will Bristol and the West of England bid? I thonk so but it is no longer my decision.
I really hope that this time around the Gigabit Vision we had will be achieved not just in Bristol but everywhere. And of course, if any city or council around the UK needs help to make a bid then feel free to get in touch. I have a long memory and lots of patience!