The North is due to get some broadband love for a change with network specialist Thales signing a £90 million deal to bring 25Mb/s fibre-to-the-cabinet to homes across South Yorkshire.

The rollout of fibre-to-the-cabinet, which promises to bring guaranteed 25Mb/s speeds to 500,000 homes and 40,000 businesses across South Yorkshire, is set to begin in 2010 and hopefully finish in 2012. The funding for the £90 million project comes from a £30 million grant from the European Regional Development Fund, a further £13.6 million from the Yorkshire Forward business development agency, and the remainder from Yorkshire, Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster councils.

As always, it's not money for nothing: the councils hope to recoup their investment by offering wholesale broadband and backhaul transit to ISPs, who will in turn offer the 25Mb/s connectivity package to the area's residents and businesses. Sadly for those who had visions of free 25Mb/s 'net connections, the project is merely providing the infrastructure - access will be via the traditional monthly payment to an ISP.

According to IT Pro, Thales is in talks with various companies with regards to the commercialisation of the network - "all the obvious candidates and a lot of local ones, as well" according to Phil Hodge, next generation broadband manager at the company - with the hope that many will be willing to sign once trials have proven successful in the new year.

Sadly, pricing has not yet been mentioned - although according to Hodge the cost of developing and implementing the system won't prevent "the wholesale prices [from being] set to be competitive with what's out there already."

Are you pleased to see councils taking access to broadband networking seriously, or do you think that £90 million for a measly 25Mb/s connection is insulting? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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