£40million cash for superfast broadband on offer to South Yorkshire firms

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Companies in South Yorkshire are being urged to apply for up to £3,000 for superfast broadband under a £40 million scheme to help Sheffield City Region catch up with the rest of the country.

From April 1 Sheffield City Region joined 49 UK cities in the Government’s Super Connected Cities programme run by Broadband Delivery UK, which is part of the Department for Culture, Media & Sport.

Sheffield was left out of a similar scheme three years ago because it had its own £100m fibre optic network, Digital Region. But it was a commercial flop and was shut down last year, leaving the city centre with no access to cheap fibre.

Now the region is viewed as ‘disadvantaged’ and the new scheme by BDUK ofers firms a connection voucher worth up to £3,000.

Mike Hague, head of sales and marketing for Idaq Networks said: “I think it will have a big impact, a lot of firms have had a taste of what fibre can bring before it was taken away.

“People have been complaining about that for a long time. Now there’s no reason not to have it again.

“We are delighted to be involved. Under the voucher scheme, firms apply to BDUK but Idaq has been pre-approved for six connections allowing us to choose the client.

“It’s particularly satisfying as we are a truly local company, running our own network, providing services to Sheffield City Region, rather than simply being a reseller of internet services provided by the usual suspects in the market.

“We are looking forward to working with the BDUK team and Sheffield City Council, to ensure the voucher scheme a real success in the coming months.”

Idaq now has nine cell sites covering 100 per cent of the city centre, the Advanced Manufacturing Park and parts of Rotherham, he added.

Nationally, the Government says it is investing £1 billion in improving broadband and mobile infrastructure to provide superfast broadband coverage to 90 per cent of the UK by 2016, and 95 per cent by 2017, and create 22 SuperConnected Cities across the UK by 2015.

Digital Region was set up by the four councils in South Yorkshire and development agency Yorkshire Forward. The total cost to the taxpayer of installation and shutdown is estimated at £160m.

The network was sold last year. Up to 1,000 miles of cabling connected to 80 per cent of premises in South Yorkshire was snapped up by Zayo Group based in Colorado.

It was supposed to win 120,000 customers and turn a profit within three years - but attracted just 3,000 and lost £1m-a-month.

The Government scrapped Yorkshire Forward when it came to power in 2010 and took on its 50 per cent share before pulling the plug last year.

The network was switched off last August. In September the four councils signed a £22m deal with BT to provide superfast broadband to South Yorkshire, although Sheffield city centre was not included.

Council chiefs say it will extend fibre to 98 per cent of the county’s home and businesses by 2017.

It builds on BT’s commercial roll-out plan.