Norwich businesses left frustrated by claims broadband is better than in London or Birmingham
10:03 17 September 2014
Innovative businesses in Norwich have dismissed claims the city has better superfast broadband coverage than both London and Birmingham, as they continue to struggle working with slow speeds.
Following a demand for action by businesses in the EDP, Norwich North MP Chloe Smith called a meeting to discuss the problem of urban broadband with BT, Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council, the LEP and Norwich University of the Arts.
She was told by the telecoms giant that it was the take up of superfast broadband that was the problem, not the coverage.
“BT tells me that Norwich has better coverage by superfast broadband than do London or Birmingham, but that our take up is low, at 12pc of possible premises utilising the superfast broadband that is available,” said Ms Smith.
But some of the EDP Future 50 companies, which are demanding Norwich is no longer left in the slow lane, say they are not able to access the superfast service.
Alex Morris, pictured, corporate director of Lambda Films in St Giles House, said BT’s claim was “farcical”.
The company is experiencing upload speeds 40 times slower than in their previous serviced offices just outside the city centre.
“BT have come in and tried to flog us a lease line for £500 or £600 a month - that was their last offer on a three-year contract,” said Mr Morris. “That’s too much for a business of seven people.”
He said other businesses in the building were now using Virgin Business for their broadband and he was looking at leaving his current contract, which runs for another three months, to do the same.
“We are still in the situation where staff go home and upload from there because it’s faster than it is in the office,” he said. “It took 12 hours to upload a video the other day.”
Lambda Films works in corporate and promotional videos, event coverage, motion graphics and animations and video marketing.
The company moved to St Giles’ House two and a half years ago and was told fibre optic broadband would be available to them within a couple of months.
Mr Morris said that date has been moved back five or six times and they are now being told they will have the broadband they need by December.
Aimee Konieczny, central service manager for Cornwall Energy, based in Millennium Plain, Norwich, said: “We know that we can pay for a hosted line to improve our speed, but it is an extortionate amount of money - and something that we cannot afford.
“However, it is something we have considered, but we do not know when BT might upgrade the exchanges, and why we would pay for it if they will then install it for free.”
She added: “BT have tried several times to connect us to the exchange near the train station because the one close to our offices has not got superfast broadband.”
A spokesman for BT said: “Nobody has done more than BT to improve broadband across Norwich, as a result of a multi-million pound investment in the city. BT has upgraded all five exchanges in the city, which it has already made fibre broadband to more than 70,000 Norwich premises on an open basis from a wide variety of different providers.
“Take up of the service is lower than expected across Norwich. We encourage residents and businesses to check via the Openreach and Better Broadband for Norfolk respective websites to see if service is available. If it is, then it is your responsibility to contact your service provider. Upgrade to fibre service does not automatically happen, which is where some of the confusion may have arisen.”
Andrea Wake, operations manager at Future 50 company FXHOME, said connecting Norfolk businesses to superfast broadband was being treated as “an afterthought”.
“Affordable, superfast broadband is absolutely critical for any business wanting to compete globally,” she said.
“For us, it is as important as having an office. Without it, we simply can’t keep pace with our international competitors or achieve our goals.”
Sarah Steed, business director at Norwich University of the Arts said: “When asked what was the most important feature we could incorporate in the NUA Incubator for Digital Creative Business, 87pc of respondents said fast broadband connection. More than anything, this is the deciding factor in where they begin their business lives.”
Ms Smith vowed that if businesses in the city had continued problems accessing the broadband they needed, she would take their cases up with BT and other authorities involved in the meeting.
“I have their commitment to look into such problems,” she said.
“Inadequate broadband for our city would not be good enough, when we are competing internationally with other cities for investment and jobs in specialist sectors and we have the opportunity now to get it right.”
Are you a Norwich business affected by broadband speeds? Email reporter Catherine Morris-Gretton at firstname.lastname@example.org