Special report: EDP Future 50 firms demand BT boosts Norwich’s broadband speed
The EDP's Future50 businesses have expressed their grave concerns about the state of Norwich's broadband. Business writer Ben woods investigates.
When software company FXHOME moved its business to a new headquarters in Norwich it expected a super-fast broadband upgrade within weeks.
But two years down the line it is still waiting to get connected – and its staff have resorted to uploading digital content from their homes where the internet speed is much quicker.
Its story is just one example of the broadband tales of woe that emerged during a special Future50 Question Time event held last week.
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Some firms said their growth plans had even been derailed by sluggish internet connections which forced them to hold back investment that could have created jobs.
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Now, 12 Future50 companies have joined forces with the EDP, Norfolk MPs George Freeman, Simon Wright, Chloe Smith and the chairman of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership Andy Wood to demand that the city is no longer left in the internet slow lane.
They are insisting that BT takes action fast, or risk transmitting a nationwide message that Norwich is no longer open for business.
The demands made to the telecoms giant are:
• Fast-track firms waiting for broadband upgrades.
• Explain why firms near internet exchanges cannot get superfast broadband.
• Explain why homes get upgrades faster than businesses.
• To find out where and when upgrades are happening.
But firms may still face a struggle to get their voices heard after BT insisted it had already made multi-million pound investments to upgrade its five exchanges, while making fibre optic broadband more widely available.
Andrea Wake, of Future50 company FXHome based on St Giles Street, Norwich, said she has been left puzzled as to why the firm is still waiting for a fibre optic line when the business is next door to an internet exchange point where the upgrades could be made.
'We really need super-fast broadband to ensure the future of our business, otherwise we cannot move to a cloud-based system,' she said. 'Our alternative is to pay £12,000 to a get fibre optic line installed ourselves, which for a small business is a massive cost.
'We now need to upload more content to support our live website streaming, and at the moment we have to do that from home because of the issues we have with downloading and uploading at work.
'We have had assurances from BT in the past saying that it is going to happen, then the information gets updated and you find it will take another three months. It is the lack of clear information that is frustrating.'
Simon Wright, MP for Norwich South, said he had already written to BT to find out why some businesses near exchanges could not be upgraded to super-fast broadband – and did not understand why it could not be done quickly.
Meanwhile, Andy Wood questioned whether BT may have been given incentives from government to carry out upgrades to homes first rather than giving priority to businesses.
Aimee Konieczny, of Future50 company Cornwall Energy, said the company also moved to Norwich for super-fast broadband, but was being held back by the speed of their internet connection.
She said: 'The lack of internet speed is now affecting the company's ability to grow further and the leased-line option is too expensive for a small business.'
• Is your business being held back by slow broadband speeds? Contact Business writer Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email@example.com