Faster broadband will add £200m to Capital economy

Ricky Nicol. Picture: Phil WilkinsonRicky Nicol. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Ricky Nicol. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Edinburgh’s economy is set to be boosted by over £200m per year thanks to plans to connect the Capital to the “gigabit revolution” that is bringing ultra-fast internet speeds to cities around the world.

Faster connections could reap huge benefits for residents, in everything from better educational IT, more efficient traffic signals, and fewer annoying delays when using TV streaming services like Netflix, according to the firms involved.

The first phase of work on a 93-mile gigabit fibre network will begin in summer, with cities such as Seoul and Stockholm which already have the connections reporting an increase in GDP of one per cent.

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The work is being undertaken by Edinburgh-based company Commsworld in partnership with network specialist CityFibre. Commsworld chief executive Ricky Nicol said other “gigabit cities” had seen growth boosted because faster internet “attracts business and tourism”.

Mr Nicol said: “This project will put Edinburgh on the same platform as other cities that are offering real connectivity and digital inclusion across the board.”

“It’s easy to get lost in the technical side or just see the business benefits, but what this means to the whole of Edinburgh should not be under estimated as it is absolutely in line with the digital plans Edinburgh council and the Scottish Government have outlined.

“For example, the council has told us that every school pupil will have their own device by 2020 that will allow them to connect to huge learning resources and will also allow them to work with pupils in other schools, cities and countries. This makes that kind of connectivity a reality.

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“Security in the city could also improve through better CCTV and traffic light systems could be analysed in real time to relieve pressure points and help emergency vehicles to reach people in need.”

His comments were backed by financial consultants Analysis Group, which found in a study of American cities that those with access to gigabit broadband saw an increase n GDP of about 1.1 per cent. Edinburgh’s GDP was estimated at roughly £21.3bn in 2014.

The study highlighted reports from Chattanooga in Tennessee, which gained 1000 new jobs and “increased investment and a new population of computer programmers, entrepreneurs and investors” following connection to superfast internet.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the plans, announced last week, “will make a key contribution to our vision of Scotland having world class digital connectivity by 2020”.

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Edinburgh is the largest city being connected by CityFibre, which has already launched similar projects in Coventry, Peterborough and York, and aims to do the same in Aberdeen.

The overall value of the project has not been revealed, but Mr Nicol said Commsworld would be investing a “seven-figure” sum in the programme.

Frank Ross, convener of the economy committee at Edinburgh council, said: “This level of commercial investment to improve the city’s connectivity is great news for Edinburgh, and fits well with our aspiration that it becomes one of the super-connected cities in the UK.

“The fact that Commsworld is a leading Scottish telecoms company and an Edinburgh SME makes this even more exciting.”