AMBITIOUS plans intended to give every household and business premise in Suffolk access to broadband speeds of at least 2 megabits per second (Mbps) by the end of 2015, and over 80% access to superfast coverage, took a significant step forward today.
Suffolk County Council and BT signed a contract under the Government's Broadband Delivery UK programme, for the organisations to work together to revolutionise broadband through the provision of a fibre network by BT. The project will use public and private funds to deliver a fibre network to parts of the county not covered by commercial plans. The contract signing happened at the county council's Endeavour House headquarters in Ipswich and was attended by six of Suffolk's MPs.
Openreach, BT's local network division, will now begin the work on the ground surveying locations around the county. Once these surveys are completed, details of the next stage of the project will be revealed.
It means that within just three years, around 9 out of 10 Suffolk properties are expected to be able to connect to fibre-based broadband which should improve the speed they can access. By March 2014, the entire Waveney Local Enterprise Zone area is expected to access to superfast speeds (24Mbps or more).
Homes and businesses that are harder to reach with a fixed fibre line will be connected using alternative broadband technologies.
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, with BT, we aim to deliver exactly that.
"Improving access to broadband is going to help Suffolk's economy grow by as much as 20% 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.
"I'm delighted that we've come such a long way in such a short space of time. In the new 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 the importance of 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 are expected to have speeds less than 5Mbps.
Bill Murphy, Managing Director, NGA, BT Group, said: "This is great news for Suffolk. The county is ambitious for economic growth and higher-speed broadband services are crucial for delivering that by helping to retain and grow small businesses, providing access to a global online market for entertainment and business opportunities and creating jobs.
"Fibre broadband will bring Suffolk's predominantly rural economy into the digital fast lane - revitalising small towns, villages and hamlets by making it possible to start and run a connected business from these locations and in the long-term, ensuring local people don't suffer from a digital divide."
BT's network is open to all internet service providers on an equal, wholesale basis, ensuring Suffolk's homes and businesses will benefit from a highly competitive market, in turn bringing greater choice and affordable prices.
Fibre to the cabinet technology, which delivers broadband speeds up to 80Mbps will be the main technology deployed and fibre to the premises technology - delivering speeds of up to 330Mbps* - is also planned to be deployed in certain areas and will be available on demand throughout the whole of the fibre footprint should local businesses want the ultra-fast speed it offers**.
Notes to editors:
*80Mbps and 330Mbps are wholesale speeds. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may use different speeds in their advertising. Individual line speeds will depend on network infrastructure and the service chosen by the ISP.
**Openreach intend to levy an installation charge for FTTP on demand when the product is launched. It will be up to service providers to decide whether they pass that onto businesses or consumers wishing to take advantage of the product.
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.
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 cannot 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 134,500 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.
Follow the campaign:
Twitter - @BB4Suffolk
LinkedIn - Better Broadband for Suffolk
Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, Tel: 01473 264012, Mobile: 07932 650085, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
David Wood, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Tel: 01473 328269,Mobile: 07889 389443, Email: email@example.com
Sandy Martin, leader of the Labour group, Tel: 01473 422186, Mobile: 07545 423802, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Ereira, leader of the Green and Independent group, Mobile: 07545 423841, Email: email@example.com