Broadband plan ‘will not repeat Digital Region mistakes’

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COUNCILS in West Yorkshire have insisted there will be no repeat of the huge losses to the taxpayer from the Digital Region project as they launch a new scheme to improve access to superfast broadband.

Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford and Calderdale councils are together investing around £1m in Superfast West Yorkshire, with the rest of the £15m cost coming from the Government, the European Union and BT which will deliver the scheme.

Also known as the West Yorkshire Local Broadband Project, it will pay for the optical fibre cable needed for high-speed broadband to be installed in parts of the region ignored by telecoms companies.

South Yorkshire councils recently revealed that they were closing a broadband project known as Digital Region at a cost of about £83.3m.

But council leaders have insisted that the scheme in West Yorkshire is very different and will not leave council taxpayers exposed to big financial losses.

Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield said: “One of the main benefits of this scheme will be its ability to reach into isolated areas that have no access to superfast broadband. To achieve this we have worked closely with our private sector partner, BT, to establish their infrastructure in areas previously ignored because they are not commercially attractive to private sector providers.

“Because we and the other authorities involved are providing grant funding any commercial risk would be borne by BT and not us.”

Meanwhile, mobile phone operator O2 yesterday launched its new 4G network, promising higher-speed internet access on the move in London, Leeds and Bradford.

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james.reed@ypn.co.uk