The UK Government has named 10 major cities eligible to fight it out for a share of £100 million to boost broadband speeds.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK's four capitals - London, Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh - will all benefit from the funding announced by Chancellor George Osborne in the Autumn Statement. Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bradford, Leeds, Glasgow, Newcastle, Nottingham, Birmingham and Bristol will now vie for the remaining six places on the scheme.
The funding will be used to create "super-connected" cities with 80-100Mbps broadband access and bidders will have to show how they will use that to "drive growth" and attract new businesses.
Hunt said: "The internet is now a fundamental part of our economy. We must ensure the UK has a broadband network fit for the digital age. Transforming communities into super-connected cities will enable them to compete with the world's top digital cities.
"It will help them attract new jobs and new investment and make the UK a place where digital businesses look to come.
"It will help our creative industries and hi-tech companies grow while making the UK even more attractive to overseas firms.
"New businesses are being set up because of the internet while many others are using the internet to grow.
"We are determined to ensure the UK has the digital infrastructure we need to drive growth."
BT and Virgin will strengthen their networks in the winning cities to deliver higher broadband speeds and the money can be used to provide coverage in areas where the companies will not go. The winners will be announced in the Budget in March.
A BT spokesman said: "The publication of the shortlist is a helpful development.
"BT is already upgrading large parts of these cities with fibre broadband and these funds could help us go even further.
"It is important for the public and private sector to work together if the UK is to have the best possible broadband network and so we look forward to working with the selected cities to see what can be achieved."