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Better Broadband for Norfolk programme passes 50,000 premises milestone

Press Release   •   May 28, 2014 00:00 BST

More than 50,000 Norfolk homes and businesses now have access to high speed fibre broadband, thanks to Norfolk County Council’s and BT’s Better Broadband for Norfolk (BBfN) programme.

The milestone comes just 10 months after the first superfast services were made available in the village of Croxton, near Thetford. Since then, BT engineers have been installing fibre optic cabling and new green roadside fibre broadband cabinets in communities across the county.

The latest areas to be upgraded to receive faster broadband are in and around Downham Market, Hunstanton, North Walsham and Watton. Later in the year, properties in and around Fakenham, Dersingham, Heacham, Hunstanton and Poringland, among others, are due to join them.

The BBfN programme is set to continue until December 2015, with the ambition of ensuring over 80 per cent of the county’s homes and businesses can access high speed broadband services of 24Mbps and above. The council is hoping to extend the reach of the programme to bring superfast broadband to even more parts of Norfolk and is currently in discussions to secure match funding in order to bring in millions of pounds of extra central Government investment on top of the £15 million already committed by the Government agency Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). An announcement about this is due over the summer.

George Nobbs, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “It’s impressive how much has been achieved by this public-private sector partnership in a relatively short space of time. Norfolk is ahead of most other counties that are part of the BDUK programme and we’re really starting to shed the ‘poor cousin’ tag in terms of our broadband connectivity. The importance of this cannot be overstated – it makes Norfolk a more attractive place to live, work and do business, increases educational opportunities and decreases social exclusion.

“Better Broadband for Norfolk is largely focused on bringing better broadband to the county’s more rural areas – its villages and market towns. This means the number of properties that will benefit from each new fibre cabinet can sometimes be quite small, which is why public investment is necessary to make doing the work commercially viable.

“We’re less than halfway through the programme with lots still to do but there’s no doubt that it’s making great progress, with new fibre cabinets going live every month and tens of thousands more properties set to be connected over the next few months.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director for next generation access, said: “It is a fantastic achievement that so many people in Norfolk are already seeing the benefits of this programme. This investment in fibre broadband will boost the local economy and help to create and protect local jobs in communities across Norfolk. It will be of enormous benefit to households and to local businesses, which can use the faster speeds to improve their competitiveness both within the UK and abroad.”

Tony Sutton lives in south Norfolk and now receives a faster broadband service after a fibre broadband cabinet was installed nearby by Better Broadband for Norfolk. He said: "Faster broadband has helped to make our lives easier. I’m deaf and rely heavily on the internet to make phone calls, contact people and businesses, organise interpreters and appointments, and to keep up-to-date with the news. Our old broadband speed was dreadfully slow, always buffering or losing connection.

"We can now use Skype to stay in contact with family and friends using British Sign Language. My son is deaf and he can now use BBC iPlayer to watch Magic Hands and Mr Tumble. We also use the internet to access applications to help our son develop his speech and language. Our daughter is hearing and we will be using the internet to help her to learn sign language to communicate with the rest of her family.”

The high-speed network installed by Openreach is available on an open, wholesale basis to all communication providers, therefore offering Norfolk households and businesses the benefit of real choice from a highly competitive market.

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.

For more information about the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme, visit www.betterbroadbandnorfolk.co.uk.

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Notes for 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.

About BT
BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of five lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Business, BT Consumer, BT Wholesale and Openreach.

For the year ended 31 March 2014, BT Group’s reported revenue was £18,287m with reported profit before taxation of £2,312m.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

For more information, visit www.btplc.com.