‘A once in a generation opportunity’: High-speed internet network could boost town

East Suffolk Council headquarters at Riverside in Lowestoft. The council is now operational, replaci

East Suffolk Council headquarters at Riverside in Lowestoft. The council is now operational, replacing Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils. Picture: Thomas Chapman - Credit: Archant

A multi-million pound scheme that could see new ultrafast broadband installed throughout a coastal town is set to be discussed next week.

East Suffolk Council's cabinet will meet next Tuesday, June 4 to assess the Lowestoft Full Fibre Project, which could see all of the town's commercial and residential premises connected to the new ultrafast fibre network in the future.

Approval is being sought for the council "to explore" extending the county council co-ordinated Suffolk Cloud project in Lowestoft.

With the project installing ultrafast Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) broadband to all public sector premises across 10 towns in Suffolk, this would enable ultrafast broadband and potentially could also be used to enable 5G mobile roll out.

And as Lowestoft is one of the 10 towns in the county identified to receive the new full fibre network, if the council chooses to approve the recommendation, the next step would see the council providing gigabit broadband specialists CityFibre and MLL Telecom with a letter of intent regarding proposed co-investment.

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With the contract to deliver the Suffolk Cloud project awarded by the county council to CityFibre and MLL in October last year, East Suffolk Council (ESC) has been in discussions with the gigabit broadband specialists about "identifying an extension of 5km to the proposed core network fibre run, which would ensure that Lowestoft's key employment sites and planned new residential areas could benefit from access to full fibre."

The cabinet report to councillors states: "The additional cost of this extension is £1.9m and would need to be funded by ESC.

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"City Fibre advised that this proposed extension reached the 'trigger point' for them to make a further substantial investment of up to £20m in the network so that all premises, business and residential, in Lowestoft would be able to access full fibre."

The report adds: "It is well acknowledged that Lowestoft's geographical remoteness and lack of good transport connections has hampered its economic growth and regeneration in recent decades.

"ESC has a very ambitious inclusive growth and development programme for the town and one strategy to overcome the town's growth constraints is to invest in its telecommunications infrastructure to ensure it has world leading digital connectivity."

It adds: "Assuming the Suffolk Cloud project stays on schedule, the installation of full fibre in Lowestoft will commence in October 2019 and will be completed within two years."

With the report stating that "the Lowestoft Full Fibre Project will be of benefit to all sectors of the East Suffolk community," it concludes: "The Suffolk Cloud project provides a once in a generation opportunity to provide this world class infrastructure at a very cost effective rate."

The report recommends that councillors express support for the Lowestoft Full Fibre Project, with further discussions requested "to assess the financial and governance implications" for the council ahead of a future report to cabinet.

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