Bid for high-speed internet for Greater Brighton region
Faster internet speeds could be on the way for the Greater Brighton area after politicians, academics and business leaders agreed to seek funding.
They aim to create a ‘super spine’ of high-speed fibre-optic links between towns and cities as well as smaller communities.
The upgraded network would replace existing copper-based phone networks which are straining to meet growing demand from homes and businesses.
Digital expert Simon Hughes told the Greater Brighton Economic Board that South Korea had 100 per cent fibre – or full fibre – while Spain had 26 per cent fibre and Britain just four per cent.
Mr Hughes, the head of digital and customer services at Mid Sussex District Council, said: “What we currently have is 100-year-old technology taking data down a copper wire.
“There are restraints in terms of speed. This is not going to cut it.”
Mr Hughes said that a joint venture between Google and Orange to lay a fibre cable across the Atlantic Ocean between America and France would deliver data at 32 terabytes a second.
Full fibre would mean high-capacity cables going from telephone exchanges to offices and homes.
Mr Hughes said: “The reason we need to promote this is to have the technology to last another 50 to 100 years.
“Demand we’ve already got is for faster speeds and we need to be able to make it much, much faster.”
He cited studies in a report to the economic board suggesting that full fibre would boost the Greater Brighton economy by five per cent after 10 years.
He said that in many homes families were streaming games and films while browsing the internet where the current bandwidth was just about enough.
Where high-speed internet was on offer, he said, there was generally fibre to street cabinets but then copper wire along the streets to people’s homes.
Mr Hughes told the economic board that a ‘spine network’ to connect places could include ducts built alongside railway lines owned by Network Rail or along abandoned railway lines as well as cycle routes.
It could cost about £10 a metre to lay ducts and fibre cable underground along these sorts of routes.
Work had started on providing a section between Brighton and Burgess Hill, working with the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership through the Local Fibre Network Fund.
Options included creating a small 115km loop linking Brighton and Hove with key areas in West Sussex, the report said. It was expected to cost £11.5 million.
Adding a local loop around one town by building along 60km of cycle routes and disused railway lines and linking digital exchanges would add an extra £5.8 million to the bill.
Other options included using CCTV ducts to build local networks, the report added.
Councils in West Sussex have agreed to submit a bid to the government to keep 75 per cent of the business rates collected in the county to reinvest in ‘super spines’.
Sarah Booker-Lewis is the Local Democracy Reporter for Brighton & Hove.