Milestone in Suffolk broadband campaign

TODAY is a milestone in Suffolk's bid for high-speed broadband with the naming of the preferred supplier 'imminent' and the first homes and businesses set to benefit before the end of the year.

Senior officials from the county council are meeting Suffolk's MPs at the House of Commons this afternoon to give an outline brief on the latest developments of the initiative.

Council leader Mark Bee will tell MPs of the developments, with insiders at the authority saying the tender process is nearing completion and a preferred supplier for rolling out the programme is close.

And David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, said last night it was vital the process maintained its momentum despite fears over the economy. Mr Bee is expected to tell MPs that following an overwhelmingly positive response from Suffolk businesses and residents, the programme board has been formulating the specification which will be put out to tender.

Once a supplier is in place, the first Suffolk properties should be being connected by the end of the year. Mr Bee, who is also chair of the Better Broadband for Suffolk campaign, said: 'We are fast approaching a hugely significant milestone in the Better Broadband programme.

'In May last year, Suffolk missed out on the Government's initial broadband funding round and the programme looked on shaky grounds.

'Now, a year on, we have got the public funding in place, overwhelming public support behind us and are among the first four counties to embark on this exciting programme.

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'I am thrilled by the progress we have made and look forward to seeing the results of all the hard work begin to materialise in the coming months.'

Two of the world's leading technology giants are expected to do battle in the tendering process. However, Fujitsu and BT are thought to have very different ideas about how to bring the technology to communities.

BT wants to build on its existing network. However, it would look at different solutions for different parts of Suffolk.

It is understood that Fujitsu would work closely with Virgin Media to allow its fibre-optic links to bring telephone and cable television to more people in the county.

Funding for rolling out the programme is coming from the county council, the business chosen to carry out the work, and the Government's BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK).

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey added: 'It is another important step in getting better broadband across our county and we should now get things moving, and moving in the right direction.'

Already more than 12,000 Suffolk households have signed up to the campaign and support is growing. It is almost exactly the same proportion of households as have signed up in Norfolk.

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