Suffolk County Council has announced that it plans to work with BT to implement the county’s Better Broadband for Suffolk programme. It means that within just three years, 9 out of 10 Suffolk properties will be connected to fibre-based broadband and will be able to get speed increases of at least 10Mbps. By the end of next year, the entire Waveney Local Enterprise Zone area will have access to superfast speeds (24Mbps or more).
Councillor Mark Bee, Suffolk County Council’s leader and chair of the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme broad, said:
When we launched the Better Broadband for Suffolk campaign, we wanted to ensure that everyone who lives and works in our county benefits. Today I'm proud to say that we will deliver.
Improving access to broadband is going to help Suffolk’s economy grow by as much as and create up to 5000 new jobs. There's a digital divide between Suffolk and the rest of the country but an even more acute disparity between urban and rural Suffolk. The Better Broadband programme is going to close those gaps, boost school attainment and help the public sector to deliver services more efficiently and cheaply.
Since I became leader of the county council, I have been determined to get Suffolk's broadband aspirations back on track. I'm therefore delighted that we've come such a long way in such a short space of time. By the end of the year, the first properties are going to start benefiting from the programme and within three years, broadband access across Suffolk is going to be unrecognisable from what it is today.
During supplier negotiations, officials placed emphasis on extending access to reliable and upgraded broadband connections to all premises in Suffolk, not just faster speeds where it is easiest to deliver. Only 2% of the hardest to reach premises will have speeds less than 5Mbps.
Bidders were asked to make an early start on improving access in the hardest to reach areas of Suffolk. This requirement is to be met with the most remote areas benefiting earliest. A detailed deployment programme will be announced in the coming months.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), welcomed the news that Suffolk’s broadband provision will be given a shot-in-the-arm.
CLA East regional director Nicola Currie said:
“The process in delivering effective broadband to Suffolk has now moved a vital step forward.
High speed broadband is essential not only for business but for education and re-training as well as helping communities and, in the future, providing better healthcare. Rural house prices and the ability to let rural office space are also directly affected by broadband speeds.”
A contract between Suffolk County Council and BT is expected to be finalised by mid-October 2012. The contract is expected to be formally awarded by the end of October. The first premises to benefit from the programme will do so by the end of 2012 – with the full programme being completed by June 2015.
Suffolk Broadband Facts
Broadband Delivery UK estimates that only eight areas in Suffolk currently benefit from broadband speeds above 8 megabits per second: Lowestoft, Felixstowe, Ipswich, Stowmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury, Haverhill and Newmarket. Some parts of the Suffolk can not access broadband at all – with householders and business owners forced to rely on ‘dial-up’ speeds.
The combined result of commercial broadband plans and the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme will mean:
- 90% of premises will get broadband speed uplifts of 10Mbps or more.
- 85% of premises will get superfast broadband (24Mbps or more).
- 84% of premises currently getting less than 2Mbps will be upgraded to fibre-based broadband.
- 100% of premises will get at least 2Mbps by 2015.
- 100% of the Waveney Local Enterprise Zone will get superfast broadband speeds (24Mbps or more) by the end of 2013.
A total investment of more than £40 million (public and private sector) will be made in broadband over a 15 year period.
Suffolk County Council and district and borough councils are investing £11.68 million in the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme, matching the Government’s £11.68 million. Each Suffolk £1 is bringing in £4 of total spend.
It is thought that public sector organisations will be able to achieve £49 million of efficiency savings within 15 years as a result of better access to broadband.
Under EU rules, public funds can not be used to invest in broadband infrastructure in areas where commercial companies plan to invest. The Better Broadband for Suffolk ‘intervention area’ is therefore 39% of Suffolk, or 135,650 properties.
Better Broadband for Suffolk is the official campaign to bring superfast broadband to the whole of Suffolk.
On 14 September 2011, following an investment of up to £10 million from Suffolk County Council, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced that the Suffolk Local Broadband Plan would be one of the first counties to kick off their government-backed programme to make superfast broadband available across their areas. This means that Suffolk is now a leading county in the Government’s aim to create the best broadband network in Europe by 2015.
Delivering the project will help local businesses grow, improve educational attainment and remove a major block to public service transformation in Suffolk.