Why Boris Johnson should look to Hull to inspire his broadband revolution - Mark Casci

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WITH its distinctive cream phones boxes and heritage of having its own telephone exchange, it would be easy for the untrained observer to dismiss Hull’s communications infrastructure as quaint.

For clear evidence to the contrary see today’s news from the city that the roll-out of ultrafast, full fibre broadband by KCOM has been completed.

Hull is set to become the first full fibre broadband city in the UK - Jim Stephenson

Hull is set to become the first full fibre broadband city in the UK - Jim Stephenson

The significance of this project should not be underestimated.

The work from KCOM makes Hull the first full fibre city in the UK.

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It means that around 200,000 homes and businesses in the region have access to ‘ultrafast’ speeds of 1Gbps (megabits per second).

Full fibre broadband cables

Full fibre broadband cables

The roll-out has taken KCOM seven years to deliver with the cost of the investment put at £85m.

When you consider that just 8 per cent of properties across the UK currently have access to full fibre broadband it is all the more commendable.

And the results of this investment will be palpable.

Read more: 1,200 jobs created by Wren Kitchens

The new connectivity can make Hull one of the fastest tech cities in the country.

The new connectivity can make Hull one of the fastest tech cities in the country.

Falling behind

As well as being six-and-a-half years ahead of the rest of the UK it goes some way to pushing the nation as a whole into the realm of world-leading, something it currently is decidedly not.

Central Government is currently targeting having the whole nation hooked up to full fibre broadband by 2025.

The nation as a whole is 34th in the international league table of broadband speeds.

Hull's docks are being revamped

Hull's docks are being revamped

We are currently looking upwards at the likes of Hungary, Japan, Slovakia and Madagascar.

By way of contrast, the fastest broadband nation, Taiwan, has an average download speed of 85Mbps.

Moreover, the roll-out of the full fibre systems in Hull has been independently audited and assessed as having delivered £234m in extra Gross Value Added to the Hull and East Yorkshire economy.

In addition it has added some £204m in salaries of additional staff employed in local businesses.

Small businesses run from home have also benefited from in excess of £1m in additional revenues.

This is no small potatoes.

Kcom engineers at work

Kcom engineers at work

Success story

KCOM, led by managing director Sean Royce, should be commended for this work.

For years the city of Hull has been synonymous with decline, a process slammed into reverse by a myriad of schemes that have put it on the front foot.

The wind turbine factory at Siemens, plans for it to become an ‘energy estuary’, the fantastic success that was City of Culture in 2017 and the regeneration of the Fruit Market have all justifiably gained plaudits.

But the infrastructure improvements to the city’s digital offering has not had its share of credit.

There is a reason that KCOM was recently acquired for £627m.

Infrastructure investor Macquarie saw its track record and wanted along for the ride.

When the full impact of this roll-out begins to make its effects known then perhaps others will sit up and take notice.

One of these people could be the current occupant of Number 10 Downing Street.

One of Boris Johnson’s promises on the campaign trail to secure the leadership of the Conservative Party was the extension of access to full fibre broadband in every home.

However, despite the adoration of the army of believers who follow him, this promise has not been backed up with practicable information as to how it will be achieved, a state of play which we can, of course, apply to virtually every policy promise he has made – and not just on the interminable Brexit debate.

Perhaps Mr Johnson and his team could look at the work done by KCOM in Hull for inspiration.