Greater Manchester community sites granted free fibre broadband

17 Greater Manchester community sites have been granted free fibre broadband connectivity until 2025, as part of a digital infrastructure and inclusion programme from Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Virgin Media Business

The community sites have been connected as part of the ‘UK’s largest’ public sector Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme, which began in March 2020.

The free fibre broadband scheme will help to break down digital exclusion barriers

Operations Manager at Deeplish Community Centre, Sohail Ahmad, commented: “The free fibre broadband at Deeplish Community Centre is improving people’s prospects and breaking down digital exclusion barriers made worse during the pandemic. Without the improved connectivity at our site, many in our community would be locked out of today’s digital society.

“Instead, more than 500 local people can now get online for free at our centre, learning new skills: from online banking, to using digital tools to support the language barrier we have in our community – or even young people visiting the site to complete their homework. Thanks to the programme, we’re seeing improved wellbeing and new prospects for our people.”

The partnership between GMCA and Virgin Media Business connects over 1,500 public sector sites across the region with 2,700km of new fibreoptic broadband infrastructure as part of the LFFN programme.

This has included over 150 children’s centres, 97 school sites and 70 libraries.

Investing in social value initiatives that support Greater Manchester’s Digital Blueprint

The deal also included a number of social value investments that support Greater Manchester’s Digital Blueprint and help tackle digital exclusion across the region.

The programme has also provided significant social and economic benefits in the region, including exceeding GMCA’s local employment target, with an average 78% of the LFFN workforce based in Greater Manchester and bringing £19.7m-worth of economic value to the local area in just two years.

Since the programme began, Virgin Media Business has also taken on 38 new Greater Manchester-based apprentices, running ahead of the original apprenticeship targets it set at launch.

Using digital infrastructure to benefit communities

Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, leader of Bury Council and GMCA lead for Education, Skills, Work, Apprenticeships & Digital said: “In Greater Manchester, we’re ensuring everyone, whatever their age, location or situation, can benefit from the opportunities digital brings.

“I’m encouraged to see digital infrastructure being used to directly benefit our communities.

“This programme has set a standard and a legacy for industry, public sector and communities working together on meaningful change and towards fixing the digital divide, as we equip the region with the infrastructure it needs to become a world class digital city region.”

Digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman added: “Our £19 million investment has funded hundreds of faster internet connections across Greater Manchester to put public services in the digital fast lane, so they deliver more for communities and encourage more broadband firms to roll-out fibre networks across the region.

“We have upgraded thousands of schools, libraries and hospitals across the UK to first class broadband fit for the future and through our £5 billion Project Gigabit we’re making sure rural areas don’t miss out either.”

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