U.K. Government Pledges $185 million to Big City Broadband

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Freshly-appointed culture secretary Maria Miller announces the 11 winners in one of her first outings since replacing Jeremy Hunt.

LONDON – Freshly-appointed U.K. culture minister Maria Miller has announced the 10 cities here to secure a share of the £114 million ($185 million) broadband pot to gear up the country for the digital age.

It marks Miller's first public announcement since taking over the ministerial duties from former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, who was criticized for being too friendly with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. in the regulatory review of its bid for full control of BSkyB.

Hunt moved to be health secretary after a government reshufffle earlier this month.

Miller said the economies of 10 cities around the U.K. – including London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast -- will take a share of the government cash to roll out the broadband infrastructure.

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It's good news for providers of broadband TV and VOD suppliers such as NetFlix, Virgin and BT Vision whose services rely on a robust broadband offering.

The aim of the cash injection is to help the 10 conurbations transform into "super-connected cities."

By offering high-tech and digital companies the infrastructure they need, the cities will be able to compete for business, investment and jobs with the world’s top digital cities.

London took the lion's share of the allocation, picking up £25 million ($40.6 million) from the pot while northern English cities of Leeds and Bradford secured £14.4 million ($23.4 million) from their joint bid.

Other cities benefitting from the 11-strong list of government-backed broadband largesse are Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Newcastle.

The Scottish capital Edinburgh got £10.7 million ($17.4 million).

But Glasgow, Scotland's largest city and the third most-populated in the U.K. – and one whose population far outweighs Edinburgh – missed out on any funding along with Nottingham, Sheffield and Liverpool.

Miller said: "Fast broadband is essential for growth, and is key to the country’s economic future. These 10 cities [Leeds-Bradford count as one] have produced ambitious and comprehensive plans, which will turn them into digital leaders, and give their local economies a real boost. The new investment will help put these cities at the centre of the digital stage, competing for jobs and investment with the best in the world."

The cash will help provide businesses with ultrafast broadband -- at least 80-100Mbps -- and well as high speed wireless Internet access.

The cities’ plans include taking ultrafast broadband access to around an extra 230,000 residential and 55,000 business premises as well as high speed wireless to even more.

All the plans are due to be delivered by 2015.

There will be a second super-connected city fund which will see around a further £50 million ($81 million) shared between ten smaller cities in the coming months.