Faster broadband underpins UK Business Improvement Districts
Friday 28th September, 2018
For more than a decade now, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have been working to achieve growth and prosperity for city centres and other commercial or industrial areas up and down the UK.
A BID is an arrangement where businesses operating in a defined area get together to fund and run projects that improve their environment. The nature of these projects varies. However, many BIDs are recognising how a faster broadband connection can underpin their growth strategies.
A good example is the BID established for Sutton Coldfield in the Midlands. Parts the town centre weren’t covered in the national, commercially-driven rollout of fibre broadband, nor included in plans to benefit from the government’s BDUK programme. However, the BID recognised that local businesses in parts of the town that had poor broadband needed to be able to access to fast fibre technology to stay competitive. Unless the BID took action, town centre businesses would be hampered by an inability to work
efficiently and effectively.
The action Sutton Coldfield took was to begin working closely with Openreach through its Community Fibre Partnerships programme. The partnership was successful in creating a superfast network to benefit the whole community.
Jack Adkins of local firm Adkins Research Group was one of the first small businesses to upgrade to superfast. He said: “What has really helped boost my business is that the BID committee persuaded Openreach to install fibre. Our fast broadband connection has really helped with our day-to-day business.”
Recognising how vital it is to have high quality connectivity, Sutton Coldfield BID went on to work with Openreach to install fibre across the town centre.
Meanwhile Cardiff BID’s strategy of building a stronger profile for the city, attracting visitors, increasing footfall and directly supporting businesses, is being underpinned by superfast broadband. Cardiff’s shopping centre, Castle Quarter, is in the heart of the Cardiff BID area. However, many Castle Quarter
businesses had been at the mercy of slow broadband speeds – a situation that was all at sea with the city centre’s plans to become a more vibrant and attractive place for shoppers. Openreach, through its Community Fibre partnership programme worked with the Cardiff BID committee to create a business case to invest in fibre installation. The committee quickly became clear about the benefits that fibre connectivity would bring to the shopping centre and how it would support the BID’s major ambitions for Cardiff.
Adrian Field, Executive Director for Cardiff, said: “We have committed £42,000 to this project in order to help retain existing businesses as well as attract new ones to the Castle Quarter area. The feedback from businesses who have already taken advantage has been excellent. It was a project in our 5 year business plan that we were eager to deliver quickly and we are delighted that this has gone to schedule.”
Stephen Afia, general manager of Shop Rugby who are based opposite Cardiff Castle, said: “We’ve been waiting for superfast broadband to be available to us for years and it’s made such a massive difference already.”
“Now we have enough bandwidth to manage our website from the property, our upload speed is 20 times faster and it’s much easier for us to move things to the cloud to back up off site. We’re absolutely delighted with the results.”