Key to the transformation of Southport is under our feet

Writing for LBN, Southport BID chief executive Rachel Fitzgerald says Southport could be a UK digital hotspot by tapping into a transatlantic internet cable that comes ashore under the town

Rachel Fitzgerald
Southport BID chief executive Rachel Fitzgerald. Picture by Gareth Jones

 

Close to 90% of UK homes now have broadband internet access and for businesses, that figure is a little lower at 84%. However, when you limit that to businesses with 50 or more employees the figure shoots up to 99%.

It has been some years since internet access stopped being a luxury and became and essential for both individuals and businesses. And the conversation quickly moved onto ‘how fast are the connections?’.

Superfast internet access is becoming increasingly important for businesses in the UK looking to compete in global markets where their competitors are already benefiting from high speed connections.

In recent months we have highlighted businesses here in Southport, such as virtual reality games developer, Fallen Planet, and Immersive Interactive, which specialises in the creation of interactive rooms or walls that offer simulated environments for training and development.

We have asked Fallen Planet co-founder Alex Moretti to help us drive forward a vision of a transformed economy in the town. Under the Town Deal project there are plans to create a hub for start-up and early-stage digital businesses.

I believe Southport could become a regional and UK leader for digital businesses and the key to that is right underneath our feet. The Hibernia Express is a 2,800-mile long fibre-optic cable that connects North America and the UK – and it is one of two that comes ashore right here in Southport.

The Hibernia Express is recognised as the fastest cable coming into the UK, sending data back and forth across the Atlantic in milliseconds. If we can tap into that cable, imagine the possibilities that would open up for Southport.

Laptop, computer, woman, work, freelance, digital
Southport businesses could get access to super fast internet

 

When you see advertising and promotion from broadband providers they will almost always focus on download speeds, which refers to how fast you can download data from the web. A decent download speed is essential if you are downloading big files and particularly if you are streaming content via platforms such as Netflix.

However, what you are less likely to see is upload speeds, that is how long it takes to upload data to the web. Both download and upload speeds are critical for businesses, particularly those in the digital sector sending sending content across the world.

And whereas in a household there will only be a small number of users, a business will have multiple people accessing the web at any given time meaning speeds and bandwidth become much more important.

Many of us have had insight into this during the pandemic. Many a Zoom or Teams meeting has been disrupted by at least one of the participants having a poor connection. If video conferencing continues to be the norm in the business world, even post-pandemic, then digital infrastructure needs to improve.

Of course, digital connectivity isn’t just an issue for businesses in the digital sector. Professional firms increasingly need high quality connectivity and manufacturers are embracing what is called the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ where web-connected sensors provide the gateway to accelerated data gathering and increased productivity.

The digital revolution can be transformational for all types of businesses and we have an amazing opportunity right here in Southport to create one of the most dynamic digital hubs in the UK. It could be truly transformational for our town.

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