In a super connected world access to fast broadband is not a luxury any more; in many cases it is a matter of business survival. So how do British cities vary on their provision of this essential XXI century infrastructure?
The answer is a lot. Using data released by Ofcom last year, in Cities Outlook 2013 we looked at digital connectivity in cities across the UK and found great disparities in the availability of superfast broadband. This may have significant implications for business location choices and economic performance of cities. But looking at connectivity patterns within cities can tell us even more.
Comparisons of two Core Cities – Manchester and Bristol – and two smaller cities – York and Brighton - show that broadband speed varies a lot across these cities and that city centres do not necessarily offer the best digital infrastructure.
Broadband speeds in Manchester city centre in particular tend to be slower than many other areas within Greater Manchester, and a similar pattern can be found in Brighton, where the fastest connections are outside the city core. This is not the case in Bristol or York, where city centre broadband speeds are stronger than in the wider area.
Reasons for poor digital infrastructure in city centres are likely to vary on a case by case basis. But this should be a concern for any city. As the economy continues to shift towards knowledge intensive sectors, physical infrastructure - road and rail - will remain important, but digital infrastructure – broadband – is likely to become an ever more important part of a city’s offer to businesses, workers and residents. Strong city centres, where businesses can exchange knowledge and share ideas will be increasingly critical. Poor broadband coverage and speed may well be a reason why some businesses choose one city over another, or leave the core for out-of-town offices, thus stripping the city of its main strengths – proximity and agglomeration.
This year we are taking a closer look at the economic performance of UK city centres and quality of digital infrastructure will be one of the factors we will explore in more detail.
Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2012
Contains Royal Mail data © Royal Mail copyright and database right 2012
Contains National Statistics data © Crown copyright and database right 2012
Contains Microsoft Bing Maps data ©
Contains Ofcom UK Fixed Broadband Data 2012