Broadband services come into use

THE first services in a ground-breaking £100m scheme to bring high-speed broadband to 1.3 million people across South Yorkshire are up and running.

Although cables are still being laid for the publicly-funded South Yorkshire Digital Region project, which should bring broadband speeds of 25 megabits per second to 97 per cent of the region by mid-2012, it was announced yesterday that business telephony and video conferencing services are now available.

This comes after Digital Region bosses signed the first two contractual agreements with Internet service providers RiPWiRE and DRBSY Ltd (Digital Region Broadband South Yorkshire), based in Rotherham and Sheffield respectively.

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So far, the services available on the network are only available to businesses, but both organisations say they expect to make them available to others "in the coming weeks."

David Holt, chief executive of Digital Region Ltd, said: "This is great news, and a significant step forward for the region's digital presence.

"We're extremely pleased that our first partner organisations are local to South Yorkshire, and that they feel Digital Region can give them such a strong portfolio of services for both businesses and consumers."

The news comes after it was feared that the project, which began last summer, was falling behind schedule. Bosses had originally anticipated the first addresses would begin using the service in March.

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The Digital Region scheme, which will involve laying nearly 500 miles of fibre optic cables under South Yorkshire, is being funded by European money plus loans and grants from all four South Yorkshire councils.

Thales UK, the company building the network, says it is set to complete laying the cables on time.

Mr Holt added: "The next few months will be very exciting for us, and for South Yorkshire in general."

DAVID HOLT: The next few months will be very exciting.