South Yorkshire is unique in a number of ways, but you know all about them already (Wikipedia is there if you’re struggling to think past Jessica Ennis.) I want to talk about something that genuinely marks us out as UK leaders in a field other than a big bloody green one – we have the most advanced and widespread fibre optic broadband network in the country, and BT and Virgin don’t own it. Perhaps you didn’t even know the Digital Region network was here, but either way it’s tremendously exciting and could mean great things for the area.

It is funded by all the councils in South Yorkshire, the European Union and the soon-to-be-defunct Yorkshire Forward, so it’s for us, not for an international corporate entity to charge through the arse for. Secondly, it means local businesses get a lift and good old locals like you and me get internet access like in the films. Up to 40meg to be precise. You know the bit where the hero has to download something before the bad guy walks in? Thanks to Digital Region, our plucky Yorkshire hero downloads it just in time, leaving the southern villain to cry into his cockles.

“Ah!” I hear you say, “I’ve heard this ‘Up to’ codswallop before. Apparently I’ve got up to 20meg and I get nowhere near that!” Fair point, but the problem thus far has been that without fibre optics the signal has to travel for miles down some old cables and by the time it gets to the cabinet on your street it has degraded quite a bit. When it makes the short hop to your house, there’s often not much left.

Imagine ordering a massive trifle from the other side of the city. The delivery driver straps it to the roof of his car and drives like a maniac. By the time he gets to your house there’s not much more than a scrap of cream left, but he still wants paying. That’s not a scientific explanation, but you get my point.

With Digital Region, the signal is transmitted through fibre optics all the way to the brand new cabinets on our pavements. This means less degradation of the signal, so all it has to do is hop to your house. Hence when Digital Region service providers say “up to 40meg”, all they’re really saying is that the distance from the cabinet to your house will lose you a bit of signal.

By 2014, 97% of our county will be covered, and new areas are going live every week. All you have to do is pick an ISP* and check if your postcode is live. Nothing is set in stone, but if enough people and businesses take up the service it will probably roll out all over the place. You could soon have somewhere in the region of a billion windows all open at the same time streaming Transformers 2* without slowing down. It’s just for us in South Yorks, it’s the biggest network in the country and it will hopefully make a big difference to the way we use the internet.

Basically, this is a long and complicated way of saying: Finally! The broadband they always promised us!

The popular T’s & C’s bit:

* Journalistic admission! I work for Origin Broadband, an ISP on the Digital Region network. I’m not here to talk about us though; just what the network means to us here in South Yorkshire and how good I think it is.

* Transformers 2 is dogger so don’t bother. If you do, please use a legal service and that.

Neil Hart.