Broadband plan for rural areas
A new broadband service could be launched in overlooked parts of rural Norfolk as early as June and rolled out across the county if it proves successful.
Norfolk Rural Community Council (NRCC) wants to provide a faster, reliable and consistent connection covering a number of parishes which could miss out under government initiatives.
The charity's �50,000 funding bid to the East of England Development Agency focuses on Cawston and surrounding villages including Weston Longville and Taverham, near Norwich.
If the bid is successful, an existing 43m communications mast, on farmland just south of Marsham, will transmit to receivers installed on homes and will hopefully provide a service with a speed of 2.5 to 3 megabits per second (Mbps).
The project will run as a business, with competitive prices depending on demand, but initial funding is needed to get the necessary infrastructure in place.
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Installation of the receivers is expected to cost about �175 per home, but NRCC chief executive Jonathan Clemo said he hoped this cost could be absorbed into customers' monthly payments.
'We recognise that, to the people we most want to provide this service for, that is a lot of money,' he said.
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Just under 300 people have expressed an interest in the scheme so far, but more are needed to demonstrate demand and sustainability, Mr Clemo told a joint meeting of the NRCC and Norfolk Rural Forum yesterday.
The government this week announced plans to spend �830m introducing super-fast broadband to every community in the UK by 2015.
But ministers said rural communities would be expected to take the responsibility for extending the network to individual homes from a 'digital hub' installed in their area.
Mr Clemo told the meeting that the NRCC's goal was to provide a service of between 2.5 and 3Mbps, which would be sufficient for most homes.
'People need a reliable, good quality service,' he said. 'There is no point in having 10Mbps one day and nothing the next. If successful, we will look to roll it out to other areas.'
He said the internet was vital in boosting the economy, but also in improving access to services for people living in rural areas, often with poor transport links.
The first phase of the funding bid, submitted in the summer, has been successful and a business plan will be submitted in early January with a view to starting work in March.
A technical survey is currently being carried out to establish how wide an area the mast could serve.
To find out if your community is eligible for the proposed scheme, or to register your support, call 01362 698216 or visit www.norfolkrcc.org.uk/broadband.