Greater Manchester community sites receive free fibre connectivity

Chris Newbould's picture
by Chris Newbould
Deeplish Community Centre

A total of 17 community sites in Greater Manchester– including homeless shelters, charities and community centres – are benefiting from free fibre broadband connectivity until 2025.

The free fibre is part of a major digital infrastructure and inclusion programme from Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Virgin Media Business. The community sites have been connected to the UK’s largest public sector Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme, which began in March 2020 and is now reaching completion.

Deeplish Community Centre in Rochdale is one of the sites benefiting from free fibre connectivity. Its operations manager Sohail Ahmad said: “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.”

GMCA partnered with Virgin Media Business to install 2,700km of new fibre optic broadband infrastructure across the city region as part of the LFFN programme. This has included connecting over 150 children’s centres, 97 school sites and 70 libraries.

The deal also included a number of bold investments in social value initiatives that support the Greater Manchester Digital Blueprint and help tackle digital exclusion across the region - as many as 1.2m residents in Greater Manchester could be excluded in some way from the benefits digital brings. These initiatives included providing full fibre broadband, free of charge, to Deeplish Community Centre and 16 other community sites as well as connecting 1,500+ public sector sites to the full-fibre network.

Councillor 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. This programme has set a standard and a legacy for industry, public sector and communities as we equip the region with the infrastructure it needs to become a world class digital city region.”

The LFFN programme has also acted as a catalyst for Virgin Media Business to make further commitments towards societal value within local communities, exploring how private and public sector organisations can work together to address the levelling up agenda at community level, and promoting digital inclusion. The organisation says it will continue to work with GMCA on upcoming pilots addressing digital skills and confidence and other initiatives to help to reduce the digital divide across the region.

 

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