Cromer named and shamed over broadband speed

Cromer has been named and shamed as one of the worst performers across the UK after a significant drop in internet speed over the last year.

Data rates for its residents fell by more than half since 2009 and North Norfolk District Council has warned that the town could become a 'backwater' without faster connections.

The news comes at a time when local business leaders and local MPs are calling for faster speeds to enable the region to remain competitive and attract investment.

The average access speed in the town dropped by half from 3.5Mb/sec in 2009 to just 1.6Mb/sec last year.

Only Poole in Dorset saw a larger drop, which can happen when new subscribers join a network and reduce the bandwidth for each user.

But despite the drop in speed at the coast, Norfolk as a whole has seen an increase in broadband speeds of almost a third to 7.2Mb/sec.

Average data rates in Norwich also rose to 4.39Mb/sec from 3.3Mb/sec over the same period.

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Robin Smith, economic development manager for North Norfolk District Council, said the figures did not reflect well on Cromer, but could not comment on the accuracy of the figures provided by website Top10.com.

He said that Cromer had not been flagged up by the council as performing worse than other areas in the region and that many other areas were affected as badly or worse by slow access speeds.

'We're all suffering,' he said.

'Over Christmas I couldn't get broadband myself and I live in Sheringham.

'There are places in the west where we can't get mobile or broadband.'

He claimed that there were 'significantly worse broadband speeds' than those found in Cromer and that poor internet infrastructure was 'holding back' the area from developing and competing with others.

'North Norfolk will not achieve its potential between 2011 now and 2025, where we look at what type of society we would like to build, unless we can actually change our whole society through fast broadband coverage,' he warned.

'It will only be broadband that will being life back into our communities.

'I foresee, in the very short future that if we don't change our broadband coverage then we will become a backwater.'

Mr Smith added that his council was lobbying government for improved infrastructure and that it remained a priority.

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, made a plea last month for the county to bid for government grants to improve internet infrastructure.

He urged Norfolk County Council to apply as quickly as possible for Broadband Delivery UK funding, the government office charged with delivering universal access to 2mbps broadband by 2015.'The current situation across much of North Norfolk is completely unacceptable, and that's the case across much of rural Norfolk. The fact that it's got worse beggars belief really.'

'My plea is for Norfolk to get it's skates on and make sure it doesn't lose out.'

The project is supported by �530m from BDUK, made up of �230m left over from the BBC's Digital Switchover project, and �300m over two years from the BBC's licence fee, which will be allocated in May.

Norfolk villages recently lost out on the opportunity of upgrading to super-fast broadband in BT's Race to Infinity competition.

The company pledged to upgrade networks at the five villages which registered the most online votes as a percentage of their population.

A scheme called EREBUS (Eastern REgion Broadband Uplift Scheme), has been set up in partnership with the East of England Development Agency to register interest from private homes and businesses in next generation broadband.

It hopes to use this data to encourage telecomms companies to roll out improvements in the region.

For more information visit www.erebusonline.org.uk.