£12m bid to roll out ultrafast broadband in North of Tyne area

The leaders of Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland councils - from left, Nick Forbes, Norma Redfearn and Peter Jackson.
The leaders of Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland councils - from left, Nick Forbes, Norma Redfearn and Peter Jackson.

Thousands of homes and businesses could benefit from a multimillion-pound scheme to roll out ultrafast broadband across the North of Tyne area.

The North of Tyne Combined Authority is seeking £12million from the Government to upgrade its digital infrastructure, leverage significant private sector investment, and enhance the area’s global competitiveness.

On Tuesday (December 4), cabinet members will be asked to commit £100,000 to help develop a bid for a share of the Government’s Local Full Fibre Networks Challenge Fund and support ongoing negotiations with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

If successful, the money would be used to install ultrafast fibre optic cabling in up to 900 public buildings across the area by 2024, with the ability to extend access to businesses and residents nearby. The project would significantly improve internet speeds and bandwidth to those premises.

The investment, totalling £24million, would be 50 per cent Government-funded and 50 per cent match-funded from member councils’ existing network running costs. It would attract new private-sector investment and allow service providers to create additional connections for tens of thousands of local homes and businesses.

It would future-proof high-speed networks and support the introduction of new 5G mobile networks in the North of Tyne area, while making it more competitive on a global scale, alongside ambitious, private-sector investments to develop powerful new links between Newcastle and North Tyneside's Stellium Data Centres to Denmark, Ireland and North America.

A report to Tuesday's cabinet meeting states: 'Improved digital connectivity is revolutionising our quality of life, from how we work and how our children learn, to how we spend our leisure time, how we do our weekly shop, and how we engage with public services.

'For Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland, having widely, high-speed, affordable and reliable connectivity to businesses and residents is crucial in maintaining economic competitiveness and achieving social inclusion.'

North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn CBE, said: "One of our six key priorities as a combined authority is to develop a powerful network of connections, with faster digital infrastructure to create stronger links across the north and internationally.

"We already have one of the fastest-growing digital sectors in the country and this funding, if we are successful, will enable us to continue to build from a position of strength and make sure our businesses have the digital infrastructure they need to be competitive on a global scale now and in the future.

"It will help us build better-connected communities and boost economic productivity across the region. We will continue to speak to residents and the business community as this exciting programme takes shape."