Better Broadband for Norfolk campaign hits 10,000 milestone

Internet campaigners are celebrating a five-figure milestone in the drive to improve Norfolk's broadband – but the task of proving an overwhelming demand is far from finished.

More than 10,000 people have responded to the Say Yes to Better Broadband campaign, run jointly by the EDP and Norfolk County Council, which aims to prove the commercial demand for a widespread superfast upgrade.

The figure has been achieved through a combination of online registrations, community activism, council cajoling and sign-up workshops.

But many more registrations are still needed before the deadline at the end of March, when the procurement process will begin to find the telecoms industry partner who can make those ambitions a reality.

Ann Steward, cabinet member for economic development at Norfolk County Council, said: 'A huge thank you to everyone who has signed up and helped us reach the 10,000 mark. This is a vital issue for Norfolk, with swathes of the county having very slow broadband, or no access at all in some areas. While we know that these 'not spots' exist, being able to evidence that thousands of people actively want better broadband is so important.

'But we can't stop here, we need more people to sign up. This is in no way a pie-in-the-sky campaign - we will be bringing superfast broadband to large parts of Norfolk that are suffering from no or slow internet access from next year. How many properties are connected really is dependent on how many people say yes now.'

The registration process does not collect any financial information from homes or businesses, and does not commit anyone to buy or use any of the resulting services.

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But the final tally of registrants will be crucial in giving the council's project team the best bargaining position from which to negotiate a commercial contract.

'We're now less than one month away from when we start asking private sector companies to bid to become our partner in the project,' said Mrs Steward. '10,000 'yeses' are good but we want and need more before we start receiving bids because we want to sign a contract that constitutes the best deal for Norfolk.

'If you've been meaning to sign up, please do it now. And if you've been meaning to tell people you know about the campaign and how they can sign up, please, do it now. Time is running out. You can make a difference, and we can't do it without you.'

Karen O'Kane, programme director for the Better Broadband project, said the Say Yes campaign had already eclipsed previous demand stimulation exercises in the region.

EREBUS (Eastern Region Broadband Uplift Scheme) was a project funded by the now-defunct East of England Development Agency with the aim of encouraging commercial investment in next generation infrastructure.

It ran a similar demand registration process for the whole of East Anglia between November 2009 and March 2011, which received 4,336 sign-ups from Norfolk.

Meanwhile, BT's Race to Infinity exercise generated 8,940 responses from 70 locations in Norfolk.

?The Better Broadband for Norfolk project hopes to bring superfast 30Mbps download speeds to as much of the county as possible by 2015. Norfolk residents and businesses can sign up at www.norfolk.gov.uk/sayyesnorfolk, or by calling 0344 800 8023.

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