Self-dig broadband network brings superfast internet to rural estate

PUBLISHED: 11:15 31 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:19 31 May 2019

Openreach's Kevin Murphy talking Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey through the fibre build  Picture: IAN BILLINGHURST

Openreach's Kevin Murphy talking Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey through the fibre build Picture: IAN BILLINGHURST

Ian Billinghurst/Openreach

Farmers have dug in to help a landowner bring some of the UK’s fastest broadband speeds to a rural estate near Lowestoft – a collaboration which has won praise from an MP.

The project at the Benacre Estate was discussed during a visit by Suffolk Coastal MP Thérèse Coffey.

Landowner Edward Vere Nicoll said poor internet links were holding back rental opportunities on the estate but, in a hard-to-reach rural area, his team realised they could substantially reduce the cost of installing fast fibre broadband by choosing to "self-dig" their own network trenches.

They worked with the Better Broadband for Suffolk partnership, which comprises Suffolk County Council, Openreach, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and local councils, to provide download speeds of around 330 Mbps (megabits per second).

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Mr Vere Nicoll said: "We found that we were struggling to rent out some of our properties, because the first question that most people asked was about the broadband speed. At that time, we didn't have fibre and it was proving to be a major obstacle.

"I got in touch with Openreach and we quickly identified three self-dig opportunities at Benacre, around 5km in total, which would make a huge difference.

"We worked really closely with local farmers to get the new infrastructure in place, including pulling armoured cable through underground ducting. You do have to be careful on farmland, but with these modern machines capable of creating a trench just a couple of feet wide, we're able to go down to a sufficient depth around the edge of fields to make sure it's out of harm's way and not accidentally damaged in the future.

"It's fantastic that we've been able to bring some of the fastest broadband speeds available to this remote part of Suffolk. Faster broadband is critical to the long-term prosperity of rural communities, with an ever-increasing reliance of broadband for home and work use. Self-dig is a great option for those in a position to do so."

Ms Coffey said: "Connectivity is vital for communities in my constituency and I know it can be a challenge rolling out new infrastructure in rural locations.

"I was delighted to see Openreach and the Benacre Estate working hand-in-hand using innovative techniques in order to deploy full fibre broadband to homes and businesses. I hope other farmers and landowners will replicate what I saw, in order to make Suffolk one of the most digitally advanced parts of the country."

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