More Homes To Get Better Broadband

One of our council's is telling Heart they hope more homes will be able to benefit from super fast broadband than previously thought.

Norfolk County Council has been speaking to us after BT's announcement earlier this week that 220,000 businesses and homes in Norfolk and Suffolk will be getting super fast broadband speeds in the next year.

The counties will be getting 21 exchanges upgraded with fibre technology in a £2.5 billion investment from the company.

85,000 homes and businesses in Norfolk and 134,000 in Suffolk will be able to reach download speeds of 30Mb/s. The aim is to provide a minimum speed of 2Mb/s to the region by autumn 2012.

BT's investment will not affect the money from central government given to help with the internet improvements. The government gave Norfolk £15M and £11.5M to Suffolk. This money is also being added to by the county councils.

Councillor Ann Steward, from Norfolk County Council, has been telling heart how the extra money will help. "The broadband will be rolled out sooner than expected and superfast broadband will be available to more properties than we had originally planned."

In Norfolk, the latest exchanges to be upgraded are at Norwich West, Brundall, Caister-on-Sea, Gorleston, Norwich Thorpe, Thetford, Costessey and King's Lynn.

In Suffolk, they are at Lowestoft, Beccles, Bungay, Mildenhall, Ipswich, Sudbury, Felixstowe, Foxall, Belstead, Hadleigh, Stowmarket, Whitton and Woodbridge.

Fibre broadband will mean it will be easier to do multiple things online at high speed. For example it will be possible to download a music track in about two seconds, a whole album in 30 seconds and a HD movie in 10 minutes.

Councillor Ann Steward talks to Holly Jones

It comes as the government announces plans to fast-track work on getting Suffolk super-fast broadband.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed that Suffolk will be one of five counties - including Norfolk - to be the first to kick off their government-backed programmes to make superfast broadband available across their areas.

Having missed out on an initial funding round but later awarded £11.68m from Broadband Delivery UK, Suffolk and Norfolk are now a leading counties in the Government's aim to create the best broadband network in Europe.

It means Suffolk can begin the process of finding a contractor to carry out the work with a target completion date of March 2015, along with Norfolk County Council who were already given the go-ahead to get work started earlier this year when they were awarded with their government money.

The aim is to have 85% of Suffolk premises with access to superfast (20Mbps or greater) fibre optic broadband. The remaining 15% of premises will be served by fixed wireless broadband.

In June, Suffolk County Council agreed to invest up to £10m in the project - a move the Council reckons almost certainly proved crucial in securing the backing from Government.

Suffolk County Council Leader Mark Bee said:

"This is the most important milestone so far in our campaign to deliver better broadband for Suffolk. It's incredible to think how far we've come in such a short space of time.

People, businesses and local communities can now really look forward to a broadband revolution which will change their lives."

Over the next six months, the Suffolk Better Broadband Programme Board, led by Suffolk County Council and including representatives borough and district council, local businesses and the voluntary sector, will be working on developing a comprehensive picture of priority areas in Suffolk. A campaign will be launched to encourage people to register their interest in superfast broadband. This will be used to help decide how the project is rolled out across Suffolk.

Key dates in Suffolk:

·        April - Sept 2012 - Choosing a supplier

·        Before the end of 2012 - Deployment begins

·        March 2015 - Target completion date.

West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock is also supporting the announcement:

“It is brilliant that the Government has given the green light to Suffolk’s local broadband plan. Suffolk has now been awarded £11.68 million from the Government to implement its local broadband plan, which will bring super-fast broadband to rural Suffolk.

“After BT’s announcement on Monday that Mildenhall will have access to super-fast broadband next year, and the existing commitment to bring super-fast broadband to Haverhill this summer and Newmarket in the spring, this is yet more good news. This will finally make super-fast broadband a reality for rural parts of Suffolk, where businesses and families have long been frustrated at the slowness of their connection.

“I have been fighting with other Suffolk MPs and the County Council for better broadband access, so I am thrilled at the news.”

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