The Better Broadband for Norfolk programme has already made high-speed fibre broadband available to more than 17,000 homes and businesses over the last six months.
Representatives from Norfolk County Council and BT, who signed a landmark contract in December last year to bring about improved broadband access and speeds in the county, yesterday (Tuesday December 17) came together in Wymondham in South Norfolk to celebrate the milestone. Around 2,000 premises in parts of the market town are among the latest to be connected to the new broadband infrastructure installed by BT, enabling them to receive fibre broadband services for the first time.
The first high-speed broadband services made possible by the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme became available in the village of Croxton near Thetford at the start of July. Since then homes and businesses in Acle, Hemsby, Holt, King’s Lynn, South Wootton and many other places have also been given access to superfast internet speeds. The most recent roadside fibre broadband cabinets were ‘switched on’ last week. They serve parts of Belton, Silfield, Wattlefield and Wymondham, including Fitzmaurice Court and Bridge Industrial Estates, and take the total number of premises able to receive fibre broadband through the programme to more than 17,000.
The milestone comes as the Government is celebrating ‘Super Switch On Day’ today (Wednesday, 18 December), which marks the progress of superfast broadband partnerships with Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) – the government agency providing £780 million in public funding to help extend superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017. Enormous progress has been made in 2013 - there are now real results being seen on the ground as hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses gain access to superfast broadband. Ten thousand premises per week are already gaining access to superfast broadband, and this will increase to 25,000 per week in spring 2014, ramping up to 40,000 per week by summer 2014.
Better Broadband for Norfolk builds on BT’s £2.5 billion commercial roll-out of fibre broadband across the UK, which aims to make the high-speed technology available to 170,000 Norfolk homes and businesses by the end of Spring 2014.
David Harrison, Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport, Development and Waste at Norfolk County Council, said: “What a difference a year makes. This time last year the contract between the County Council and BT hadn’t even been signed and one year on, look at the impact the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme has already made.
“Due to our county’s rural nature and sparse population, it is unlikely that it would ever be commercially viable for the private sector alone to make the kind of investment required to provide broadband services to every property in Norfolk, and superfast to most. The council and the government know how vitally important this was for everyone’s future success, which is why we put our hands in our pocket to make up the shortfall.
“Norfolk really is at the front of the pack in terms of these public-private investments in broadband infrastructure, which will of course help to make us more competitive and more attractive to businesses. Next year, tens of thousands more homes and businesses are due to be connected to the new networks and will be able to receive much faster broadband services as a result.”
Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, added: “All over the country fibre broadband is changing people’s lives. It provides a digital gateway to a wealth of opportunities whether it is supporting how we work, how we learn, how we communicate with friends and family, or how we entertain ourselves.
“Access to high-speed broadband is rapidly becoming a key ingredient for economic growth and is also a major determining factor in where businesses decide to locate.
“Fibre broadband opens up a whole raft of leading edge software applications that could benefit business – allowing them to work more efficiently, for people to work when and where they want to, to expand their business offerings and to connect with customers, not just locally but all over the world.”
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The 17,000 properties passed milestone in Norfolk is great news for both local residents and businesses. Today’s announcement is just part of a transformation of broadband services happening throughout the UK. Broadband is an essential part of Norfolk’s present and future. It is vital that we embrace this latest generation of technology in order for our economy to remain competitive.”
George Freeman, Member of Parliament for Mid-Norfolk, said: “It’s great news that Wymondham is one of the first ‘Fast Broadband Towns’ in the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme, with over 17,000 households in the county now receiving fast broadband. For too long Norfolk has been treated as a backwater when it comes to investment. But better broadband is essential to getting back the vibrant villages and thriving towns we all want to see: allowing more and more people to work much closer to home in the myriad of micro businesses being started across our area.
“That’s why the key now is to make sure we make it easier for the most hard to reach rural locations to get fast broadband as well, which is what the Government’s £1bn scheme is supporting, and we need to look at the growing number of local providers now offering satellite and wireless solutions as well as the BT fibre network.”
Joe Mooney, county councillor for Wymondham on Norfolk County Council, said: “Better broadband is something many people living in Wymondham have been clamouring for, so this is really welcome news. The internet is a big part of life now, from working and learning to shopping and staying in touch, so it’s really important that everyone has the chance to benefit from the opportunities it presents.”
The next areas that are set to benefit from the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme include parts of Aylsham, Coltishall, Downham Market, North Walsham, Sutton and Watton. The majority of these areas are set to have service available between January and the end of March next year. For the full list of areas that are due to receive better broadband by the end of March 2014, see notes to editors.
The Better Broadband for Norfolk programme was launched to help large parts of Norfolk that currently have slow or no broadband access. In 2011 the council pledged £15 million to the scheme, and this was matched by central Government as it became one of the first local authorities in the UK to be successful in bidding for Broadband Delivery UK funding under the framework contract.
In addition to covering the ongoing costs of supporting and maintaining the network, BT is making an £11 million contribution towards the cost of installing the fibre infrastructure, bringing the total capital investment in the project to £41 million.
When combined with the private sector’s commercial roll-out of fibre broadband the deal between BT and the County Council will make broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps* available to more than 80 per cent of Norfolk’s homes and businesses by the end of 2015. The programme also aims to provide all homes and businesses with a minimum broadband speed of 2Mbps within the same timescale.
Each roadside fibre broadband cabinet serves homes and businesses in a very localised area such as part of a village or town. As faster services become available, people will be able to check whether their home or business can receive them via the Better Broadband for Norfolk website (www.betterbroadbandnorfolk.co.uk).
For more information about the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme, visit www.betterbroadbandnorfolk.co.uk.
Notes to editors
*These are the top wholesale speeds available from BT’s local network business, Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.
Find below the full list of towns and villages which contain areas that are set to be able to receive services made possible by the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme between October and the end of December. Please note that not all homes and businesses in the towns and villages listed will receive better broadband services.
• Barroway Drove
• Bengate (Worstead)
• Bexwell (including B&P Business Park)
• Catfield (including Broads Business Park)
• Downham Market (inc Stonecross Industrial Estate, Trafalgar Industrial Estate, Sovereign Way)
• East Ruston
• Little Cressingham
• Meeting Hill (Worstead)
• North Walsham
• Norwich (Sweet Briar Industrial Estate, Frensham/Burnet Roads)
• Oulton (Norwich)
• Saham Hills
• Saham Toney
• Spa Common
• Stow Bridge
• Watton (including Threxton Road Industrial Estate, Neaton Business Park, Breckland Business Park, Norwich Road Industrial Estate, New Green Business Park and Thetford Road Business Park)