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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Full Speed Ahead for Full Fibre

Friday, 10 January 2020

Welcome to my first blog of the 2020s. Before I begin, I’d like to take the chance to wish you all a happy, healthy and successful New Year.

Despite a tumultuous 2019 for the country as a whole, it proved to be a year of progress and achievement here in Tameside. I’m happy to say that as soon as the Christmas decorations were put away we’ve been working hard to build on the solid foundations of the last twelve months.

 

The next part of that journey began on Tuesday, when I attended a meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) that finalised the details of how we intend to roll out full-fibre broadband across the city region.

Unlike traditional broadband connections, where part or all of the line from local telephone exchanges still uses old copper wire, full-fibre transmits data by pulses of light through fibre and plastic cables. This results in a much, much faster internet connection; while a good copper wire can transmit up to 66 megabits per second of data, full-fibre averages 1,000 megabits per second with the potential for more. To put that into perspective, an hour-long mp4 video of around 1 gigabyte (1024 megabytes) would take just over a second to download over full-fibre compared to 15.5 seconds using a copper line.

While this would benefit individual households hungry for more data due to the rise of streaming services, smart devices and video calls, it would have an absolutely transformative impact on businesses.

The vast majority of businesses, regardless of their size, now depend on the internet for some or all of their income. Faster and more reliable connections mean an increase in productivity by allowing employees and business owners to do the same amount of work in less time. It improves work-life balance and air pollution by making remote connections and working from home an option for more people. Even the process of building the necessary infrastructure and connections will create opportunities for jobs and training. At the moment Britain lags badly behind other European countries, with only 8% of the country connected by full-fibre. Closing that gap, according to Ofcom, could add up to £87.6 billion to our GDP in five years.

The deal agreed at the GMCA on Tuesday will give Greater Manchester the best high-speed internet coverage of any city-region in the UK, but Tameside is already ahead of the game. Since February 2018, the Tameside Digital Infrastructure Cooperative (TDIC) has allowed internet providers, public and private consumers and investors to come together to make the best use of the fibre connections that already exist in Tameside. Our partners already include Tameside Hospital, both of our sixth form colleges, Virgin Media, the Mid Counties Cooperative and the Jigsaw Group.

 

Even at this early stage we can point to a number of successes that were only possible by our commitment to leveraging our fibre infrastructure. The Ashton Old Baths, now fast approaching its second anniversary, has preserved our local history while looking to the future by providing offices and incubators for high-tech businesses. The Hospital and our Community Response Service have developed the award-winning Digital Health approach, which has reduced the demand on our A&E services, supported our care homes and allowed elderly and vulnerable residents to live in dignity and comfort. Looking at the longer term, we’ve helped to set up a number of events such as CoderDojos and Tameside Hacks to guarantee that all our young people have the chance to learn digital and computer skills from an early age in a fun and relaxed environment.

This new deal agreed by the GMCA will allow us to both expand on what we’ve built in Tameside, and link up with the other great work that’s be done in the other local authorities that make up our city region. It’s my hope that this will be the first of many blogs I’ll be able to write this year about how we’re investing in our towns, our economy and our shared future.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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