Breckland Council could invest £950,000 in Norfolk broadband project
© Archant Norfolk 2012
Breckland councillors have been asked to agree a £950,000 investment to help bring superfast broadband to properties in the district which won’t be reached by private-sector projects.
A report to the authority’s cabinet meeting on July 1 seeks an “in principle agreement” to contribute the money to a partnership led by Norfolk County Council to improve internet connectivity across the area.
It aims to reach the so-called “final third” of properties which are not commercially-viable enough to be connected through BT’s £2.5bn national roll-out of fibre-optic broadband.
In Norfolk, that figure is higher than the national average, leaving 57pc of properties requiring public sector funding if they are to reap the benefits of superfast download speeds.
The Better Broadband for Norfolk programme – a partnership between BT and Norfolk County Council – aims to ensure that more than 80pc of premises can access high speed broadband services of 24 Mbps (megabits per second) and above by December 2015.
But if Breckland’s funding us agreed it will become the first district to contribute to the project as it seeks to connect the remaining, hardest-to-reach properties.
Breckland Council leader Michael Wassell is also a town councillor in Watton where superfast broadband services were recently made available to more than 2,000 homes and businesses as a result of the county’s scheme.
He said: “The success of the county council-led Better Broadband for Norfolk programme, with support from Breckland, will be key to future employment and education as well as the strengthening of rural community life.
“The roll out of fast broadband in Watton is now proving a real success. Slow or intermittent internet access is hugely disruptive for rural businesses, and makes what should be routine work or personal tasks increasingly difficult for our residents.”
More than 50,000 premises in Norfolk can already access high speed broadband services as a result of the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme, which was backed by an EDP campaign.
The county council hopes to extend the reach of the programme and is currently in discussions to secure match funding which could bring millions more pounds of national investment on top of the £15m already committed by government agency Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).
George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “The current £41m Better Broadband for Norfolk programme is already making a big difference to people living and working in Norfolk. It is bringing high-speed broadband access to rural homes and businesses that otherwise would likely be in the internet slow lane for many years to come.
“We now have the opportunity to bring superfast broadband to even more areas of the county. Breckland Council’s proposed investment would ensure that the district has really excellent broadband connectivity with all the economic, educational and social benefits this brings.”
A report to Breckland’s cabinet explains how the £950,000 figure was calculated in order to help Norfolk County Council reach the government target of making superfast broadband available to 95pc of UK premises by 2017.
It says: “In total 57pc of all Norfolk premises are estimated to be not commercially viable. This equates to at least 31,000 premises in Breckland.
“Indicative research has estimated the full cost of deploying superfast broadband to the remaining properties in Norfolk at £2m for every 1pc of Norfolk premises in these hardest-to-reach areas and, correspondingly for Breckland, assumptions have been made that 8pc of the district will not be covered, and estimates to uplift an additional 3pc of premises to 92pc – 95pc is between £750,000 – £950,000.”