RURAL BROADBAND

An ambitious £100m project led by Suffolk County Council aims to provide every property in our corner of rural Suffolk with access to broadband speeds of at least 15 megabits per second (Mbps).

Peter Ingram, who heads the Suffolk Better Broadband Programme, explained the complexity of the project in detail to a packed meeting at Stansfield Village Hall on 17 November.

Suffolk County Council is committed to building a superfast internet highway across the county as it recognises the importance to businesses and householders alike of being able to access high speed broadband. The latest technology provides download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps, with the potential for even faster speeds in the future.

It is estimated that public sector organisations in Suffolk will be able to achieve £49 million of efficiency savings within 15 years as a result of better access to broadband while the county’s economy will grow by £2 billion and 1,500 jobs will be created.

The county council recently signed a procurement contract with BT for the second phase of the rollout of the Better Broadband Programme which will take access to fibre optic broadband to 95% of the county.

Currently BT is engaged in an intensive survey and design stage to plan the rollout of phase 2 to ensure it is effective, efficient and covers the most extensive area possible. We won’t know the results of this for months.

Once it is known, I have been given the task of chairing a cross party committee of county councillors to develop plans to extend coverage to the final 5%. We will be looking at a range of measures including pilots of the latest technology from BT’s research centre at Martlesham, working with private providers, developing community-based schemes – and, of course, lobbying government for more funds.

In the meantime, works continue on completing the first phase which, by the end of March, will see fibre optics in BT cabinets across communities in South West Suffolk including, Poslingford, Clare, Cavendish, Stoke by Clare, Wixoe, Hundon, Stradishall, Cowlinge, Wickhambrook, Great Bradley and Little Thurlow.

The Government set a target of every property across the country having access to 2Mbps within the next 12 months however, here in Suffolk, Mr Ingram explained, “a more important target that we are working to is to try to get 15Mbps to as many people as possible as early as possible, and where there is any discretion about which we spend our limited public subsidy on, we will be prioritising the latter.”

Suffolk’s better broadband website is currently being updated, but by the New Year will have the latest up to date information – www.betterbroadbandsuffolk.com
Website details for BT are Openreach Link www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/home.do
Openreach checker www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/where-and-when/
The Ofcom site to compare broadband packages is http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/tv-radio/price-comparison/