Broadband is the catalyst for Norfolk’s rural regeneration
Superfast broadband can act as the catalyst for the regeneration of rural industry, bringing knock-on benefits to entire countryside communities.
That was the message from enterprise leaders as they urged as many people as possible to register their interest in the Better Broadband for Norfolk project.
The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (Lep) is currently finalising its bid for a share of �15m in government funding to create one of six pilot rural growth networks (RGNs).
The scheme aims to overcome barriers to growth in isolated areas by focusing on 'enterprise hubs' in underused business parks or redundant commercial sites.
New Anglia programme director Chris Starkie said the supply of broadband infrastructure was a crucial first step to encourage businesses which would, in turn, attract shops, workers and housing to revive ailing towns and villages.
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'Broadband is as important today as electricity was for our forefathers,' he said. 'It is the engine of the modern community that enables isolated places to be in touch with the rest of the world.
'Rural businesses suffer from being remote, but if they were all to get fast broadband they could become just as competitive as other locations. Suddenly a redundant office complex could be just as attractive as something in the city centre from a business perspective.
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'It brings back life to villages that potentially, because of their geographic location, are in decline. It enables young people to have learning opportunities like they would have in the city, it enables older people to get access to services on a par with everywhere else, and it allows businesses to be competitive.
'This broadband project will only be a success if people use the infrastructure that is on offer. There is no point spending millions on a new fibre-optic network if no-one is going to use it. We need to show there is a demand for this, so we would encourage businesses and individuals, wherever they are across Norfolk, to register their interest.'