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Special report: EDP Future 50 firms demand BT boosts Norwich’s broadband speed

PUBLISHED: 11:57 26 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:06 26 February 2014

The EDP Future 50 Question Time taking place in the Curve at the Forum, where local M.P's Simon Wright, George Freeman and Chloe Smith along with Andy Wood answered wide ranging questions from the local business community. Photo: Steve Adams

The EDP Future 50 Question Time taking place in the Curve at the Forum, where local M.P's Simon Wright, George Freeman and Chloe Smith along with Andy Wood answered wide ranging questions from the local business community. Photo: Steve Adams

The EDP’s Future50 businesses have expressed their grave concerns about the state of Norwich’s broadband. Business writer Ben woods investigates.

Get us connected !

Members of Future 50 demanding better broadband in Norwich:

• Andrea Wake, FXHome: Head office close to the exchange but still waiting for fibre optic upgrade.

• Alex Morris, Lambda Films : Promised fibre some two years ago when we moved in but still no firm delivery in sight.

• Rebekah Bedingfield, NR Care: Based on Queen’s Hill estate where the Internet speed does not meet her business needs.

• Matt Stevenson, Seneye: If the company was not determined to stay at Horsham St Faith it would relocate to an area where the broadband speed was better.

• Louise Thomas-Minns, uandyourskin: Keeps losing Internet connection in Bridewell Alley and does not get a response from the supplier.

• Pippa Redmond, Norwich Print Solutions: Backs campaign to improve broadband speeds in Norwich.

• Simon Francis, ESE Direct: Paid to have superfast broadband installed after BT said fibre optic broadband was not available at the nearest cabinet.

• Chris Wheeler, Metalfrog Studios: Backs campaign to improve broadband speeds in Norwich.

• Aimee Konieczny, Cornwall Energy: Company’s slow broadband speed is affecting its ability to grow

• Rebbecca-Lewis Smith, Fountain Partnership: Backs campaign to improve broadband speeds in Norwich

• Fiona Temple, Open Contact: Just upgraded to fibre optic broadband in Norwich but cannot believe some areas of the city still do not have it

• James Duez, Rainbird: Believes slow broadband speed is a real bottle neck for growth in Norwich.

Future 50 sponsors:

• Kevin Horne, NWES: Backs the campaign for better broadband speeds in Norwich

• Simon Watson, Lovewell Blake: Backs the campaign for better broadband speed in Norwich

When software company FXHOME moved its business to a new headquarters in Norwich it expected a super-fast broadband upgrade within weeks.

But two years down the line it is still waiting to get connected – and its staff have resorted to uploading digital content from their homes where the internet speed is much quicker.

Its story is just one example of the broadband tales of woe that emerged during a special Future50 Question Time event held last week.

BT’s response

Nobody has done more than BT to provide sophisticated high-speed broadband across Norwich.

BT has made a multi-million investment in the city, upgrading all five exchanges serving the city and making fibre optic broadband available to more than 70,000 Norwich homes and businesses. Very importantly, this new network is available on an equal basis to all broadband service providers, thereby ensuring highly competitive products and pricing for local customers.

BT’s sophisticated Ethernet technology is also available in Norwich and allows medium-sized businesses and other organisations to opt for the guaranteed broadband speed of their choice over their own dedicated line. Businesses can choose Ethernet speeds between one megabit per second (Mbps) and 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps), depending on their needs.

We are more than happy to look at the specifics around any individual business issues and fully investigate for you, and we would happily meet up with any of the businesses who are involved to look at options that are available.

There may be cases in some instances where service may well be available already and it would be worthwhile customers checking the following website:

www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/where-and-when/ and contacting their service provider.

BT is also a major partner in the £41 million Better Broadband for Norfolk project to bring fibre broadband to many parts of the county, including Norwich which are not covered by BT’s own commercial deployments. BT has committed an investment of £11 million to the project.

More details can be found here: www.betterbroadbandnorfolk.co.uk

• Extra cash to get more homes access to superfast broadband in Norfolk and Suffolk

• Norfolk farmers bring broadband and phone signal concerns to Westminster

• Broadband headache: Go Ape forks out £30,000 to combat sluggish rural internet speeds

A panel of Norfolk MPs and the chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership heard how Norwich businesses were forced to pay thousands of pounds from their own pockets to get super-fast internet lines because BT was taking too long.

Some firms said their growth plans had even been derailed by sluggish internet connections which forced them to hold back investment that could have created jobs.

Now, 12 Future50 companies have joined forces with the EDP, Norfolk MPs George Freeman, Simon Wright, Chloe Smith and the chairman of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership Andy Wood to demand that the city is no longer left in the internet slow lane.

They are insisting that BT takes action fast, or risk transmitting a nationwide message that Norwich is no longer open for business.

The demands made to the telecoms giant are:

• Fast-track firms waiting for broadband upgrades.

• Explain why firms near internet exchanges cannot get superfast broadband.

• Explain why homes get upgrades faster than businesses.

• To find out where and when upgrades are happening.

But firms may still face a struggle to get their voices heard after BT insisted it had already made multi-million pound investments to upgrade its five exchanges, while making fibre optic broadband more widely available.

Andrea Wake, of Future50 company FXHome based on St Giles Street, Norwich, said she has been left puzzled as to why the firm is still waiting for a fibre optic line when the business is next door to an internet exchange point where the upgrades could be made.

“We really need super-fast broadband to ensure the future of our business, otherwise we cannot move to a cloud-based system,” she said. “Our alternative is to pay £12,000 to a get fibre optic line installed ourselves, which for a small business is a massive cost.

“We now need to upload more content to support our live website streaming, and at the moment we have to do that from home because of the issues we have with downloading and uploading at work.

“We have had assurances from BT in the past saying that it is going to happen, then the information gets updated and you find it will take another three months. It is the lack of clear information that is frustrating.”

Simon Wright, MP for Norwich South, said he had already written to BT to find out why some businesses near exchanges could not be upgraded to super-fast broadband – and did not understand why it could not be done quickly.

Meanwhile, Andy Wood questioned whether BT may have been given incentives from government to carry out upgrades to homes first rather than giving priority to businesses.

Aimee Konieczny, of Future50 company Cornwall Energy, said the company also moved to Norwich for super-fast broadband, but was being held back by the speed of their internet connection.

She said: “The lack of internet speed is now affecting the company’s ability to grow further and the leased-line option is too expensive for a small business.”

• Is your business being held back by slow broadband speeds? Contact Business writer Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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