South Yorkshire shuts down public broadband project

A bungled broadband project in Yorkshire has been scrapped, with the final cost to local authorities as higher than £80 million.

The Digital Region broadband project was supposed to achieve 98 percent high speed coverage to the South Yorkshire region. However, despite grant and loan funding from the now defunct Yorkshire Forward group, project takeup was very low and no major ISPs signed up to the network. It was supposed to be a self financing project to bring growth to the region, however, Digital Region only had 3,000 paying customers – well short of the initial 108,000 forecast.

£45 million in public money was lent to the project in addition to the £80 million figure, the Yorkshire Post reports, which was ultimately written off by Yorkshire Forward. Councils decided it would be more cost effective to shut the service down rather than earlier plans to find private sector partners.

There is, at least, 80 percent coverage across South Yorkshire, but this has been provided by the private sector, not Digital Region.

Barnsley council’s Steve Houghton told the Post: “Clearly there are lessons to be learned because Digital Region hasn’t performed as anticipated,” adding that “we need to understand why and make sure no one gets in that position again”.