Greater Manchester is partnering with Virgin Media Business to deliver fibre optic connectivity to more than 1,500 public service sites in Bury, Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Trafford and Wigan.
In addition, more than 180 public sites in Salford and Manchester will see their connectivity upgraded and a further 36 public sites will be connected through the innovative Tameside Cooperative, enhancing Greater Manchester’s position as a leading European digital city region.
This is the result of close partnership working between Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Greater Manchester’s local authorities, Fire & Rescue Services and Transport for Greater Manchester and is backed by millions of pounds of funding from central government.
This new investment, plus existing local authority investments in digital infrastructure, make this the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Networks Programme and will underpin a wide range of digital transformation and smart city projects.
Broadband Minister Matt Warman MP said: “We are going to help improve communities across the UK with world-class infrastructure and our £23m investment in Greater Manchester will give hundreds of public buildings the fastest broadband available. This will bring huge social benefits and attract further commercial funding to boost the region’s £3bn digital sector.”
The Digital Blueprint for Greater Manchester launched in February and set the bold ambition to be a world-class digital city-region. The Blueprint sets out many priorities including ensuring everyone in the region can get online and access relevant public services. It also commits to helping Greater Manchester residents become confident internet users.
Investment in future-proof fibre networks is important to helping deliver these ambitions and this collaborative regional programme will create the conditions and enabling infrastructure where people and businesses can thrive.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “This is a huge achievement for Greater Manchester’s public sector and really demonstrates the value of collaboration. Full Fibre will supercharge our digital capacity and help our public sector sites to continue delivering the best possible services to residents across our city-region.
“We are also minimising the costs for all providers to invest in Greater Manchester through our Full Fibre Prospectus. We are committed to making it as easy as possible for all to providers to invest in digital connections that benefit our businesses and communities.
“As well as revolutionising our public services, it will give a huge boost to Greater Manchester’s towns and cities, cementing our position as one of the leading digital city-regions in Europe.”
The deal also includes a number of bold investments in social value initiatives that support the Digital Blueprint, including a commitment from Virgin Media Business to directly create 20 apprenticeships based in Greater Manchester, as well as investing in digital and STEM skills for young people.
Peter Kelly, Managing Director of Virgin Media Business, said: “Manchester is an enormously important centre for Virgin Media, a gigabit city and the place our Project Lightning network expansion programme first started.
“Today’s investment will build on our proud connection to the city and bring next-generation connectivity to Greater Manchester, giving the city region the best digital infrastructure in the UK.”