Free internet will be coming to Newcastle city centre as part of a £6m broadband investment.
Metro passengers will be able to access the free Wi-Fi as Newcastle Council prepares for wider connectivity and faster broadband speeds.
City leaders won £6m of Government funding to attract new businesses, with the money also going to develop a state-of-the-art cloud computing centre in the city with Newcastle University.
More details are still to be finalised, but current plans envisage firms able to apply to the council for up to £3m-worth of vouchers to pay for the installation of Next Generation Access Broadband.
And £1m will be invested in improving wireless access to the internet, particularly in public buildings, in the city centre and on district high streets. Council leader Nick Forbes said the news would “transform the way that people go about their daily lives”.
He added: “Over 40,000 adults in Newcastle have never used the internet, so I am delighted that we have secured this funding to get more people connected to the web.
“Never before has it been more important for people have access to the internet, especially now that the Government requires people to fill out welfare forms on line.
“Ultrafast broadband today is essential, and it’s a key part of being a modern European city. Having wi-fi on the Metro brings 21st century services to our transport infrastructure.
“Getting everyone connected is a real challenge, but it is something we are determined to do – not through coercion but by demonstrating the benefits.”
Proposals to develop wireless connectivity on the Metro system are at an early stage, but could bring benefits to 37 million passengers a year.
Tobyn Hughes, deputy director general of Metro-owner Nexus, also welcomed the news.
He said: “This funding commitment will let us develop proposals for improved wireless and wi-fi connectivity, allowing much faster internet connections for passengers throughout their journey.”
The Cloud Computing Centre will initially based in the university’s Claremont Tower, and will ultimately be moved to the old brewery site in the heart of Newcastle city centre along with the School of Computing Science.
Newcastle University’s Barry Hodgson, who is leading the project, explained: “The Cloud Centre offers us a unique opportunity to gather and analyse huge amounts of data much more quickly and present them in a way that is meaningful to the customer.
“For example, a trial is already under way to issue patients with wrist sensors which log their daily activity and sleep patterns.”
Ultrafast broadband today is essential, and it’s a key part of being a modern European city