Crunch time for Norfolk’s Say Yes to Better Broadband campaign

The people of Norfolk were urged to grasp their opportunity to end years of broadband woe for thousands of Norfolk homes and businesses as 'crunch time' arrived for a county-wide campaign.

Since its launch in January, the Say Yes to Better Broadband campaign has won universal support across all sections of society, proving the widespread desire for a planned superfast upgrade.

More than 11,500 people have registered their interest, while schools, businesses, community campaigners, politicians and tourist attractions have united in their frustrated calls for urgently-needed network improvements.

But many more sign-ups are still needed if the campaign is to succeed in proving the overwhelming public demand which will entice private investors to the project.

Norfolk County Council will begin its procurement process at the start of April to find a telecoms industry partner to help match the �30m of public funding already secured for its project to deliver a fibre-optic upgrade across the county.

That leaves just five days for homes and businesses to register their interest, and add their numbers to the figure which will be presented to bidders.

And with every extra registrant adding to the commercial allure of Norfolk's project, campaigners said now is the time to act.

Most Read

Ann Steward, cabinet member for economic development at Norfolk County Council, said: 'It really is crunch time now. Next month the process of finding a private sector partner for the Better Broadband for Norfolk project begins in earnest. We need as many 'yeses' before then as possible to make investing in the project an attractive proposition and to enable us to get the most competitive bids, which ultimately will mean a better deal for Norfolk and more properties connected to superfast broadband.

'Please, if you have meant to sign up but haven't got around to it, make time this week, it only takes two or three minutes. And if you can give us one final helping hand and remind your friends, family, colleagues, staff and customers to say yes, that would be fantastic.

'The more people who say yes now, the more Norfolk homes and businesses will get superfast broadband from next year onwards – it really is that crucial.'

Without the intervention of the public-funded Better Broadband project, it is estimated that about 60pc of Norfolk would be left without access to the next-generation fibre networks currently planned by BT.

This huge internet wilderness includes more than 50,000 private and commercial properties in 'not spots' with very slow speeds under 2Mbps, or with no broadband access at all.

EDP editor Peter Waters said: 'There are only five days to go and it's vital that as many sign up to this as possible if we want to secure fast-speed broadband for the county. If we stay as we are Norfolk will remain in the slow lane for internet access.

'There are huge advantages for us both in business terms and in our private, personal use if we can secure faster online speeds.

'Without reliable, secure, speedy internet access we may as well consign ourselves to falling further behind in our on-going quest for more employment, more training and more inward investment in Norfolk. But it's up to you, both members of the public and those in business, to make sure that there is tangible evidence that the demand is there – and that means signing up to this campaign.'

A rallying cry for councillors to continue racking up the signatures was also issued at yesterday's full meeting of Norfolk County Council.

Dr Marie Strong, member for Wells, said the number of names collected so far amounted to 1.4pc of Norfolk's population. She urged councillors to make the most of the remaining 'campaign days'.

Council leader Derrick Murphy said: 'I would like to see more and more signatures. The response of people to the campaign is quite a considerable achievement but, like you, I would like to see more.'

Although online registrations at www.norfolk.gov.uk/sayyesnorfolk will still be possible after April 1, sign-ups should be made by the end of March to be certain of inclusion in the 'demand stimulation' figures used in the tender process.

The commercial contract for the project is due to be awarded this summer, with installation work expected to begin in January 2013 and new broadband services becoming available soon afterwards. The minimum 2Mbps service is expected to be available to everyone in Norfolk in 2015.

?Norfolk residents and businesses can sign up online at www.norfolk.gov.uk/sayyesnorfolk or by calling 0344 800 8023.

For those unable to access the website, printed forms for businesses and households are available in all 47 of Norfolk County Council's libraries and its 11 mobile libraries.

You can also sign up in person at the final event in a series of shopping centre roadshows, which will be held tomorrow (Wednesday 28th) from 10.30am to 2.30pm in the main foyer of The Forum, in Norwich.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter