Virgin Media is the latest business to join the Tameside Digital Infrastructure Coop (TDIC), which brings together local authorities, the NHS and local businesses to share digital infrastructure.
Initially a Greater Manchester project, the co-op is looking to change its name into the Digital Infrastructure Cooperative as it grows beyond Tameside.
TDIC was set up over a year ago to create a single infrastructure to serve the public sector, businesses and residents in the area. Participants contribute passive assets, such as ducting, that they own or have built. They retain ownership and charge a market rate to the co-operative to make use of these assets.
The co-op offers its members access to a variety of digital assets allowing them to build and operate advanced digital connectivity services.
The project helps both private and public sector actors involved. Businesses are able to use TDIC facilities to create advanced internet and telecommunications services for both businesses and consumers in the region, whilst membership allows public sector members to improve services and save costs.
The co-op is run on a one-member, one-vote basis, which guarantees that all partners are equal, and that no one can take it over.
TDIC has three types of members – user members pay wholesale fees to access dark fibre and rack space. Contributor members contribute duct or floor/roof space and receive a fee from the co-op. Investor members invest for interest style return. So far, the co-op provides access to 40 km of fibre spine network. Virgin Media will be a user member.
Tony Reddington, Virgin Media’s Project Lightning build director, said: “I am very much looking forward to working with the Tameside Digital Infrastructure Cooperative and supporting its aims to maximise the availability of high capacity digital infrastructure across the region. Having overseen recent Project Lightning investment in Tameside, including the expansion of our fibre network to over 7,000 premises in Hurst, I am passionate about supporting the region’s digital ambitions.”
TDIC has benefited from a £2m investment from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Minister for digital Margot James said: “As part of our Local Full Fibre Networks Programme, the government has invested over £2m in unlocking public infrastructure in Tameside for wider commercial use. We are delighted to see the Digital Infrastructure Cooperative improving the availability of gigabit-capable infrastructure locally and strengthening the case for it to be adopted as a model by other local authorities across the UK.“
Councillor Bill Fairfoull, deputy leader of Tameside Councillor, added: “We are delighted to welcome Virgin Media to the Digital Infrastructure Cooperative which is continuing to go from strength to strength– and I am sure they will quickly reap the benefits that working in a mutual way can bring.
“Virgin Media is already making significant investments in fibre to the premise in Tameside and we are hoping that having ready access to the co-op’s extensive dark fibre network, will make further investments from them economically viable.