Suffolk: Almost 50,000 homes and businesses connected to superfast broadband under the Better Broadband for Suffolk Programme
PUBLISHED: 09:41 08 August 2014 | UPDATED: 09:41 08 August 2014
Rural residents in Suffolk will not be left behind on the internet highway, it was claimed last night, after it emerged almost 50,000 properties in the county now have access to better broadband.
Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council and chair of the Better Broadband for Suffolk Programme (BBSP), said work to provide reliable and fast internet speeds across the county is ahead of schedule, insisting “significant inroads” into rural areas have been made.
The authority has pledged that every property in Suffolk will have access to broadband speeds of at least 2 megabits per second (Mbps) by the end of 2015, while 85% of homes and businesses will have superfast speeds of 24Mbps or more.
Since launching in May last year, the BBSP has now provided superfast broadband to 44,554 properties. It means the scheme is closing in on its target of connecting around 100,000 homes and businesses to fibre-based broadband by the end of 2015.
Around 200,000 properties in Suffolk have already benefitted from commercial upgrades, contributing towards the 85% target.
Mr Bee said: “In particular, we are making significant inroads into more rural parts of the county. This is precisely what we set out to do.
“But we are not stopping at the 85% target. We have already secured additional government funding and are now working on extending the programme to as much as 95% of the county.
“I am tremendously proud of what we have achieved and look forward to seeing this first round of rollout completed by the end of next year.”
The scheme has already secured around £24million of public money, which has been used to leverage further private sector investment from BT through a public procurement process.
It means the BBSP can intervene in areas not subject to commercial upgrades.
Chris Soule, chairman of the Suffolk branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the latest statistics added a “few more coals of reality to the fires of optimism”.
He said: “From some of the rural businesses we have spoken to there has been a general change in mood over the last two years – from an initial outright disbelief about the likelihood of superfast broadband ever being available to them, through a general cynicism to a cautious optimism; having actually seen some of the new fibre enabled cabinets appearing somewhere in their area.”
Chris Knock, chairman of Battisford Parish Council, which has been plagued by poor broadband, said he has been assured the village is now in the county council’s “revised” regional plan to receive an internet revamp.
He said: “It is a real issue. People just cannot get online and download emails. We feel incredibly disadvantaged.
“One business had to move out. Everyone, in both urban and rural areas, should have access to fast broadband. This is a moral responsibility.
“But the county council are being very helpful.”
Around 450 miles of fibre cable has been laid out in Suffolk since work began.
John Dugmore, chief executive of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, hailed the latest milestone as a “great achievement”.
But he stressed: “It’s important that while we all work together so progress continues at a pace to ensure all properties that need superfast broadband have access to it.”