Belfast to become 'super-connected city' with broadband investment
The government is investing almost £14m in super-fast broadband in Belfast.
Belfast City Council previously secured £6m, but had to compete with 10 cities for this latest £7.7m funding to make it a "super-connected" city by 2015.
Belfast already enjoys good broadband infrastructure - that is what has already persuaded key high-tech companies like New York Stock Exchange Technologies - to locate here. They can communicate from Belfast to New York quicker than from many US based cities.
What this latest funding offers Belfast is the opportunity to maintain and improve its competitive edge through a number of key investments.
The combination of ultra-fast connections for high-tech and creative firms that need it; the free wireless access throughout; almost total access to good broadband for households; and a training and support programme for both businesses and communities, all combine to keep Belfast ahead of rivals.
Those behind the project believe that will matter in terms of jobs created in the coming years.
With the private sector investing £8m and the council £3m, about £25m is going towards creating an 80 to 100Mbps (megabits per second) citywide network.
As part of the investment, there are also plans to provide free wireless internet access throughout Belfast.
Councillor Deirdre Hargey said it was "one of the most significant announcements for Belfast and the wider regional economy for some time".
"It is a real game-changer as it will provide a world-class digital infrastructure that will attract major foreign investment, create jobs, and provide a platform for local business start-ups," she said.
"It also brings major benefits for communities, residents, tourists and public sector organisations."
The super-connected cities were first announced last year in Chancellor George Osborne's autumn statement, when he pledged £100m to create 100Mbps (megabit per second) citywide networks in 10 urban areas.
The current average broadband speed in the UK is 9Mbps.
By 2015 it is hoped the investments in UK cities will provide ultra-fast broadband coverage to 1.7 million households and high-speed wireless broadband for three million residents.