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Three Norfolk areas among slowest in country for broadband speeds

PUBLISHED: 08:33 29 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:02 29 July 2020

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman. Picture: Archant

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman. Picture: Archant

Archant

Three rural Norfolk constituencies are among the slowest in the country when it comes to broadband speeds, it has been revealed.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker. Picture: Stuart AndersonNorth Norfolk MP Duncan Baker. Picture: Stuart Anderson

And Liberal Democrat leadership hopeful Layla Moran has called on the government to do more to help parts of the country “stuck in the digital slow lane”.

Ofcom said in May the UK’s average home broadband speed was 64 megabits per second (Mbps), which was up by 18pc on the year before.

But Mid Norfolk has just 35.4Mbps, while in North Norfolk it is 35.7Mbps and in North West Norfolk the figure is 36.8Mbps. North Cornwall has the country’s lowest speed of 29.1Mbps.

Ms Moran, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: “Despite repeated government promises, thousands of people across the UK are being left in the digital slow lane. Urgent investment is needed in boosting internet speeds in rural areas, alongside extended tax relief on new broadband infrastructure to ensure no household is left behind.”

But North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker pointed to the chancellor’s promised £5bn to roll out gigabit-capable broadband into the country’s hardest-to-reach areas, and to the government’s Universal Service Obligation (USO), which allows every home to request broadband of a minimum 10Mbps.

Mr Baker said: “It’s my goal to eradicate poor signal and slower broadband within a reasonable timetable.”

George Freeman, Mid Norfolk MP, said issuing vouchers to rural communities so they could buy the best broadband solution for them would
be a good approach to further helping speeds.

Mr Freeman said, for example, a hamlet of 10 houses could use their vouchers to club together to fund a satellite dish, to boost broadband for their whole community.

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He said: “Covid has shown how vital digital connectivity is to our ability to work and stay connected as communities. Reliable mobile signal and 4G broadband are key to Norfolk’s post-Covid recovery.

“I want to see government give each rural household and business a voucher for fast digital connection which local people can use to buy local solutions.”

Mr Freeman said the current approach of BT-owned Openreach rolling out broadband was “always going to fail the most rural 10pc of communities”.

He added: “The problem is for a rural county like Norfolk, that’s unacceptable.”

An Openreach spokesman said: “We have made a huge amount of progress across Norfolk making faster broadband available. Our commercial rollout, alongside work with the county council, has played a leading role in reaching more than 95pc of homes and businesses with superfast broadband. But we know there is more to do.

“We’re always looking at ways to extend the reach of our broadband network and regularly announce new locations - we announced 200 in January - to benefit from our build, particularly full fibre. Full fibre is not only faster, but it’s also more reliable and future-proof.

“Locally, we’ve already announced our latest build starting in Norwich, and more rural communities including Attleborough, Besthorpe, Great Ellingham, Dereham, Toftwood, Downham Market, Watton, Wymondham and Bungay, Earsham and Ditchingham in Suffolk.

Councillor Steffan Aquarone, the Liberal Democrat’s group leader on the county council, said: “It’s shocking but not surprising that after being promised that they would have their voices heard in Westminster, these blue-voting areas of Norfolk are lagging behind.

“BT’s dominance over the pipes means Norfolk will stay behind the curve unless there is a new plan, but unfortunately the Conservatives in Norfolk don’t want to know.

“Yet again they’re taking the people of Norfolk for granted.”


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