Thousands of homes and firms to benefit in internet revolution

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EVERY household and business in York is due to be given access to super-fast broadband in a bid to place the city at the forefront of an internet revolution.

Talks are underway between York Council and internet service providers to create city-wide coverage for the next generation of broadband.

The authority is already reaping the benefits of a dark fibre optic network which has been installed and more than 100 council buildings including schools and libraries are connected to it.

The council is benefiting from improved broadband connections as well as advanced telephone systems, video conferencing and better CCTV links.

But ambitious plans are being undertaken to expand the super-fast broadband connections to the private sector and the city’s 90,000 households.

York Council’s head of ICT, Roy Grant, claimed the move will be a vital step to attract enterprise to the city and help counter the lasting effects of the recession.

It is hoped that the network will be available to firms and homes within the next four years, giving residents and business owners the chance to subscribe to superfast connectivity.

The improved network would provide connections up to 10 times faster than the average internet links currently in the city of about eight megabytes per second.

Mr Grant said: “This is a major development not just for York, but the surrounding area as well. We are on the crest of delivering something very special. The opportunities that this presents are huge and it will build on York’s reputation as one of the leading locations for internet connections nationally.”

The Yorkshire Post revealed last month that a pilot scheme is due to be launched to create a free wi-fi zone in the centre of York to provide internet access in a bid to attract more shoppers and tourists and boost business.

The move will see York become one of only a handful of towns and cities in the UK to offer the perk, although many locations on the Continent have already introduced the technology.

The trial is due to be launched next month in St Helen’s Square and Coney Street to provide free wireless connections for mobiles and laptops.

If the pilot proves successful, free wi-fi access is due to be extended across the city centre area within York’s medieval walls.

Mr Grant confirmed the wi-fi trials will be used to assess how the improved connections should be rolled out across an area within York’s outer ring road.

The council is currently in talks with internet service providers, including CityFibre Holdings which created the multi-million pound fibre optic ring that is being used in the authority’s buildings.

The council signed an eight-year service contract worth £13.7m which was awarded to Pinacl Solutions in 2009 to oversee the authority’s use of the network.

But Mr Grant stressed discussions are continuing with other local and national internet service providers. He is due to meet with senior executives from BT next month to discuss how the company could provide improved internet connections.

The expansion of the super-fast connections in York will help bolster the growth of the technology and science industries.

More than 35,000 workers are employed across science and technology-related sectors in North Yorkshire, and almost 30 per cent more work in creative industries than in agriculture.

York already ranks among the top 10 cities in the UK for broadband coverage, although many parts of the region are lagging behind.

Yorkshire has the lowest rates of internet connection in the country – 64 per cent of people are online compared with a national average of 71 per cent.

A separate project, NYnet, which is overseen by North Yorkshire County Council is aiming to introduce high speed internet coverage across the county.

paul.jeeves@ypn.co.uk