Remote parts of Northumberland will have better internet access than most city centres, the North of Tyne Mayor has promised.
Jamie Driscoll pledged a dramatic improvement in broadband speeds for rural areas after it was confirmed that the region has secured £12m to kickstart the roll-out of high-speed connections.
The North of Tyne Combined Authority wants to install full fibre internet in hundreds of public-owned buildings across Newcastle, Northumberland, and North Tyneside – which could then be linked up to thousands of homes and businesses.
Council staff admitted earlier this month that the most remote areas were likely to see no direct benefit from the project because of a lack of public buildings, such as libraries or schools.
But, as it was announced that the government has awarded the region £12m from its Local Full Fibre Networks Programme, Mr Driscoll promised: “With the North of Tyne delivering this, rural Northumberland will have better connectivity than most UK city centres.”
He added: “Just as connectivity with the railways changed people’s lives in the industrial revolution, Full Fibre is part of the Green Industrial Revolution.
“The Full Fibre project gives us an edge in infrastructure. It gives a platform for clean economic growth – as virtual reality software becomes increasingly common, it helps tackle climate change by reducing the need to drive around in order to connect with each other.
“A lot of this sounds very technical – but in layman’s terms, Full Fibre increases the internet bandwidth to our rural communities by a factor of 50.
“All aspects of our lives will use more data connectivity – businesses collaborating through teleconferencing, people working from home, our kids learning with virtual reality, even the way we shop.”
The three North of Tyne councils are expected to pump in £12m of their own cash to add to the full fibre roll-out.
The first phase of the upgrades, which will focus on rural Northumberland, is expected to be completed by 2021.
Coun Nick Forbes, the North of Tyne cabinet member for business competitiveness and leader of Newcastle City Council said: “This is a fantastic outcome which will allow us to further enhance the region’s reputation for its pioneering approaching to technological developments.
“We have one of the fastest-growing technology sectors outside the capital, and the rollout of full fibre internet to those more rural regions will help more communities within the North of Tyne area benefit from that.”