Liftshare pioneer backs Better Broadband for Norfolk campaign
The founder of a pioneering Norfolk social enterprise has joined his local MP in demanding improvements to the internet links which are crucial to his rural membership.
Since Ali Clabburn set up Liftshare in 1998, it has grown into the UK's largest car sharing scheme, helping to match regular travellers with a willing driver heading in the same direction.
The Attleborough-based organisation has more than 500,000 members, with about 3,500 in Norfolk, who use the scheme's website to match their journey requirements with other drivers in a bid to save money and reduce their carbon footprint.
But with many potential travellers living in rural areas where public transport may not offer a feasible alternative to the car, Mr Clabburn said improved connectivity was crucial to the success of the enterprise.
He has added his supported to the EDP-backed Say Yes to Better Broadband campaign, which is aiming to prove the commercial demand for a county-wide superfast upgrade.
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Mr Clabburn said: 'Our mission is for everyone to have someone to share a car with. What we are trying to do is provide access to opportunities, whether they are educational, work-related or social. We simply would not be able to do that without good internet speeds. We couldn't run our business without it, and our members couldn't use us without it.
'If a commuter goes to our website they are 86pc likely to have a match on the system, so anyone in rural Norfolk can access that and save themselves a lot of money – but only if they can get on our system.
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'It is essential to everything we do, so it is really important to us to get the best broadband we can.'
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman and Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for economic development, Ann Steward, visited Liftshare as part of their drive to encourage rural homes and businesses to sign up for the campaign.
Mr Freeman said better access to faster internet could help many more rural businesses like Liftshare recruit more members and develop their customer base.
'Liftshare is a great example of how one person with a broadband connection on a farm can start up an award-winning, profitable and growing business,' he said.
'Norfolk has one of the fastest growing economies in the country and superfast broadband will help even more businesses get started and grow.'
The Better Broadband for Norfolk project hopes to bring superfast 30Mbps download speeds to as much of the county as possible by 2015. The Say Yes campaign, jointly run by the EDP and Norfolk County Council, aims to prove the commercial demand which will tempt private investment in the scheme. Norfolk residents and businesses can sign up at www.norfolk.gov.uk/sayyesnorfolk, or by calling 0344 800 8023.