Fibre project ‘hugely exciting’ says Digital Infrastructure Minister

Yorkshire Water and partners have launch a pilot to explore the potential for the UK’s water networks to be used as a conduit for delivering high-speed broadband to homes and businesses.

The launch event was attended by local stakeholders, including representatives from the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, Barnsley Council and local Members of Parliament Miriam Cates MP and Dan Jarvis MP, at Barnsley’s Digital Media Centre.

It was announced in May that the water company and its partners have received a government grant to kickstart the fibre in water market within the UK. The project has been allocated £3.25m. The water company will carry out investigations in South Yorkshire to plan the pilot, which would be a first for the UK.

If the scheme passes the initial investigative phase, fibre optic cables will be laid within 17km of Yorkshire Water’s live water network between Barnsley and Penistone in South Yorkshire.

Through utilising the existing water network, the project could provide a cost-effective solution for broadband providers to service hard-to-reach areas, whilst water customers further benefit from the associated reductions in leakage.

Analysts at Yorkshire Water would be able to use the cables to detect cracks, bursts and leaks so that they can be repaired quicker, reducing water loss and disruption to customers.

The solution would also reduce the need to dig up roads and land to lay cables, making the deployment of fibre optic broadband less disruptive to local residents.

Keith Bullock, Programme Director, DCMS addressing the room.

Digital Infrastructure Minister, Matt Warman MP, said: “It’s hugely exciting to have this groundbreaking project kick off. We’re on a mission to deliver better connectivity to hard-to-reach areas and water pipes could be a quicker and cheaper way to connect communities most in need with the fastest full fibre broadband.”

“If successful, Fibre in Water could help bring the benefits of faster internet speeds to thousands of people in South Yorkshire and the rest of the UK.”

Sam Bright, innovation programme manager at Yorkshire Water, said: “It was great to bring a wide range of stakeholders and organisations together at the Digital Media Centre, for the launch of this project.

“We are very pleased that the Government is supporting the development of the Fibre in Water solution, which could reduce the environmental impact and day-to-day disruptions that can be caused by both water and telecoms companies’ activities.”

For more information on the project, visit their website

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