Almost 200 businesses back Norfolk broadband bid

Almost 200 Norfolk businesses have backed the multi-million-pound bid for faster broadband in the space of just two weeks, it emerged.

The impressive scale of support for the bid that has been to the government was revealed at County Hall.

The marble map of Norfolk was decorated with some 200 flags, representing those businesses that had backed the bid by responding to say they needed better broadband access.

Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council, was joined by Peter Waters, editor of the EDP, and business leaders at the event, which signalled the culmination of the Back the Bid campaign.

The campaign has been run by the EDP and the county council, which is bidding against 24 other local authorities across the UK for a share of a �530m Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funding pot to invest in making superfast broadband available in areas with no or poor access.

Large parts of Norfolk have been identified as broadband 'not-spots', where households and businesses either have no broadband coverage at all or cannot receive a standard level of service (2Mb).

The deadline for bids to be submitted was 5pm on Monday, and the council is likely to find out whether it has been successful by the end of May.

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If the bid does succeed, it is reckoned that improvements will:

Boost the local economy by an extra �401m over the next decade.

Create 1,337 jobs.

Provide faster broadband access for 93,000 properties.

Mr Murphy said the success of the bid was one of the single most important decisions for Norfolk for some considerable time; it was absolutely vital in terms of securing inward investment.

He added: 'Without doubt, Norfolk currently suffers disproportionately from poor broadband access. Improving our broadband network in Norfolk is one of the best investments we could make in value for money terms to ensure the future success of the county.'

Mr Waters said he was thrilled that the EDP could help champion Norfolk with campaigns like this in which the entire community came together to strive for the same goal.

He added: 'We have the creativity, the energy, the entrepreneurs and the ideas. What we lack is investment in infrastructure. If we can create jobs and wealth, it will not only benefit us: it will also benefit the treasury. It is win-win – simple as that. We've just got to get that message through to the government and their agencies, and I hope that begins with this bid.'

At the end of last month the council and EDP launched an appeal for businesses and organisations in Norfolk to back the bid by demonstrating the impact better broadband access could have on their success and profitability. The scores of businesses and organisations that responded filled in testimonial forms and signed their names on letters of support; this evidence has been used to strengthen the bid.

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: 'Communication is key to business success and for the ability to be able to create jobs and move Norfolk's economy forward, so this bid, and its outcome, could have a significant impact on businesses being able to move forward.'

peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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