Norfolk County Council has signed a contract with BT to bring better broadband connectivity to the rural area.
The project is being funded by £15m from the council, matched by a further £15m from central government as part its investment into rolling out broadband infrastructure across the UK under the BDUK banner. BT will also contribute £11m to the pot.
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The goal is to almost double the amount of homes and businesses in Norfolk with access to superfast broadband over three years, although the first areas to benefit from new infrastructure will be up and running by the end of 2013.
“We know how many people and businesses are frustrated by slow or no broadband access in Norfolk, it’s one of the biggest issues facing our county,” said Ann Steward, cabinet member for economic development at Norfolk County Council. “It has far-reaching implications, on our competitiveness, on our learning opportunities and on Norfolk’s attractiveness as a place to live, work and do business.
“With the contract now signed, work on the project will get underway [and] Norfolk will be transformed as networks are upgraded and better broadband becomes available in large parts of the county, including in many of our more rural locations. Norfolk stands to benefit from this investment for decades to come, and we're extremely proud to be bringing this about for the county.”
BT will begin by surveying the county to plot the best locations to run fibre across in order to reach as many people as possible. Some of the funding will also go to upgrading a number of BT’s existing exchanges, but details of which ones won’t be revealed until the planning process has completed.
“Norfolk needs access to high speed broadband so it can continue to be recognised as a good place to do business and live,” added Bill Murphy, managing director of BT’s next generation access (NGA) division. “The number and quality of services, facilities and applications that businesses and individuals are able to access due to high speed broadband is increasing, and the benefits are rising exponentially.”
“This project should prove to be the much needed catalyst to help regenerate the county’s predominantly rural economy.”
The target for completion is Autumn 2015 – the same as the government’s target to remove all ‘not-spots’ and make the UK have the best broadband in Europe – which should see 80% of the country able to access 24Mbps speeds or higher.