North Lanarkshire Council approves £150m Broadband and WiFi upgrade

Households and businesses in North Lanarkshire will have significantly improved access to gigabit-capable fibre broadband after a new deal was approved by North Lanarkshire Council that will improve connectivity across the region.

Up to £150 million could be spent over the initial 15-year deal with Commsworld to transform North Lanarkshire Council’s digital infrastructure, significantly boosting school internet access and creating a free public WiFi network across town centres and community facilities.

The fundamental associated benefit is accelerating the availability of gigabit-capable fibre broadband (providing download speeds up to one gigabit-per-second) for communities and businesses to access.

The deal will ensure significantly improved access to high-quality, reliable fibre connections, making a real and transformative difference to investment opportunities for businesses while also tackling digital exclusion.

Councillor Kenneth Duffy, convener of the council’s Transformation and Digitisation Committee, said:

“The award of this contract to Commsworld is a huge leap forward for the ambitions we have for everyone in North Lanarkshire.

“The potential impact of these plans cannot be underestimated as this contract has brought forward and increased the availability and choice of fibre broadband to towns, communities, businesses and rural areas across North Lanarkshire, massively improving their digital connectivity and delivering a GVA of around £1.3bn over 15 years.”

The framework agreement for Digital Connectivity Services will not only futureproof North Lanarkshire Council’s digital backbone but will enhance the coverage and reach of gigabit-capable fibre networks to businesses, private and council-owned social housing and residential households that are not currently served by existing networks, bringing enormous benefits including increased access to employment opportunities, improve health and social wellbeing and economic growth.

The digital transformation will create a free public WiFi network as all town centres, council and public buildings, sport and leisure facilities, culture venues, libraries, country parks, sheltered housing, schools and homelessness accommodation are connected, enabling people who don’t have digital connectivity to have fast internet access, helping to reduce the digital gap across North Lanarkshire.

Through a phased programme of work, under the terms of the deal, every one of the council’s 155 schools will benefit from a significant uplift in internet connectivity with a minimum 1Gb (1 Gigabits) connection for primary schools – which is twenty times the current capacity – and secondary schools increasing to a resilient 5Gb (5 Gigabits), signalling infinite opportunities for digital learning through faster download speeds.

“We know from talking with people in communities that digital exclusion is a real concern. Equality of access is crucial to improving the lives of people living here and we’re starting right here by providing a network of free public WiFi across our own public buildings, town centres, schools, leisure centres, venues, sheltered housing and homelessness facilities.

“This means that anyone can have access to one of the fastest internet connections available from these locations, supporting a range of individual and business needs such as faster upload and download speeds, higher quality video and audio streaming and the ability to support more devices simultaneously at home.”

As well as bringing an additional digital fibre provider to the area, increasing competition, plans could be developed to offer vastly reduced rates for gigabit-capable fibre broadband to council tenants, residents and businesses.

Councillor Duffy added:

John Trower, chair of telecommunications network provider, Commsworld, added:

“Commsworld is looking forward to working with North Lanarkshire Council to bring rapid and thorough transformation to their digital infrastructure. This transformation will provide opportunities to regenerate every one of its town centres, schools and council buildings.

“Commsworld has a track record of delivering massively enhanced infrastructure to local authorities in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Renfrewshire and the Scottish Borders.

We have been able to provide a step change in connectivity and resiliency in all these areas, changes that have delivered considerable benefits to everyone living, learning and working there. We look forward to being able to do the same in North Lanarkshire.”