YORK councillor Ian Gillies is one of 23 council leaders across the north of England who have signed a letter calling on the government to deliver full fibre to every business and home in 30 northern towns and cities by 2025.

Northern Powerhouse leaders have warned that the north faces the prospect of a digital and economic divide caused by an uncoordinated and inefficient rollout of full fibre across the UK.

Last year it was announced that York will be the first city in the UK to have city-wide full fibre all the way from the exchange into individual homes or business, transforming it into the country's first gigabit city.

However, in an open letter more than 20 town and city leaders across the north of England warn that the welcome wave of private investment in our digital infrastructure could be undermined if two or more full fibre networks are built in the same locations. This duplicative approach, they argue, could double disruption, while other parts of the Northern Powerhouse risk missing out altogether.

In response to this threat, the leaders are calling on infrastructure providers, marshalled by government and Ofcom, to ensure that the maximum possible coverage is delivered in the shortest possible time. This will ensure the entire country can realise the full economic and social benefits of next generation infrastructure.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, who organised the letter, have called on government, as part of their recent Next Steps for the Northern Powerhouse report, to deliver full fibre to the premises (FTTP) to every business and home in the top 30 Northern towns and cities by 2025.

The report claimed that 50 percent full fibre coverage across York would be worth £631 million to the economy, rising to £1.1 billion with 90 percent coverage.

At present, the government has committed to delivering a nationwide rollout of full fibre networks by 2033 with 15 million UK premises to have access by 2025. The new full fibre networks will ensure homes and businesses have reliable broadband services, with unlimited bandwidth and internet speeds of up to 1000Mbps. This initiative is expected to boost economic productivity and support innovation.

Much of this rollout will be funded and delivered by private network builders and Northern Leaders have backed the government’s approach to promote competition between multiple providers at the national level to successfully deliver full fibre.

Northern Powerhouse Partnership Director Henri Murison said:"Towns and cities across the Northern Powerhouse eagerly anticipate full fibre roll-out and its transformative potential to unlock productivity. But this letter highlights leaders’ concern that the North's full fibre future is at risk from uncoordinated investment, acting against the interests of business and home customers.

“In some cases we are seeing the needless duplication of full fibre networks, whilst at the same time as short distances away other Northern towns and cities with no planned investment risk being left behind on antiquated copper networks - missing out on the huge benefits full fibre brings."

“If we are to close the productivity gap between North and South we need to be attracting businesses to come here and help others grow. Digital connectivity can and must play a major role.”