New statistics reveal broadband speeds in region - how is it where you live?
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Thousands of people in parts of Norfolk still have among the worst broadband speeds in the country, new figures have revealed.
While rural areas such as North Norfolk are particularly poorly served, even parts of Norwich are among the worst 30pc in the UK for connectivity.
Figures released by the House of Commons, comparing how broadband connectivity and speeds vary in different parts of the UK show that, despite efforts to improve coverage in Norfolk, many black spots remain.
Average broadband download speeds differ hugely across the county. While Norwich North enjoys a speedy 72.7 megabits per second (Mbps), people in Mid Norfolk have speeds of less than half that - 35.4 Mbps and those in North Norfolk are only marginally more rapid - at 35.7 Mbps.
The East of England average is 61.3 Mbps and the UK average 60.9pc. But with the exception of Norwich North and Norwich South (72.2 Mbps) every constituency in Norfolk is below that.
In Suffolk, Waveney is 42.5 Mbps and Suffolk Coastal 43.5 Mbps.
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The sluggish pace place many towns and villages in Norfolk among the bottom 10pc in the country for broadband download speeds, including Attleborough (34.2 Mbps), Cringleford (34.2 Mbps), Hockering (32.2 Mbps), Horsford (31.8pc), Mundesley (34.2 Mbps), Hingham (31.2 Mbps), Reepham (34.2 Mbps), Gayton and East Winch (31.7 Mbps). Upwell (30.1 Mbps), Happisburgh (30.3 Mbps) and Hempnall (32.4 Mbps).
Beeston Regis has the slowest download speeds of anywhere in Norfolk - a mere 28.8 Mbps,
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Areas with the fastest download speeds included Norwich’s University and Avenues area with a rapid 90.1 Mbps, Bradwell South and Hopton with 82.8 Mbps and Sprowston Central with 78.1 Mbps.
One of the factors which means download speeds are slow is the availability - or not - of superfast broadband. Ofcom defines that as lines which can receive download speeds of at least 30 Mbps.
Superfast availability does not mean all lines actually receive superfast speeds, because this often requires consumers to subscribe to specific packages.
Across the UK, 94.8pc of people have access to superfast broadband. But the figure is lower than that for six of Norfolk’s constituencies and Suffolk Coastal.
South Norfolk is the worst performer on that score, with only 87.9pc having access to superfast broadband, while Norwich North is best connected, with 99.4pc.
But, within constituencies, there are big disparities. For instance, in North Norfolk, 97.9pc of people in Sheringham, 96.2pc in Cromer, 97.3pc in North Walsham and 95.4pc in Holt have access to superfast broadband.
But in the Beeston Regis area that plummets to 76.7pc and 77.5pc in the area around Worstead - among the worst 10pc of UK areas.
There are also areas which cannot get what is termed ‘decent broadband’. Those are premises below the Universal Service Obligation – those unable to receive 10 Mbps download speed or 1 Mbps upload speed, which Ofcom regards as necessary components of ‘decent broadband’.
Across the UK, only 2pc of properties are unable to access ‘decent broadband’. All but three constituencies in Norfolk fare more poorly than that.
In Broadland, 4.7pc of properties do not have that access, with Mid Norfolk (4.2pc) and South Norfolk and South West Norfolk (both 4.1pc) the next worse.
Norwich North fares well, with all but 0.3pc having ‘decent broadband. Just under 1pc do not have it in Great Yarmouth and Waveney, while the figure is 1.7pc in Norwich South.
But, even in Norwich, some areas are the worst 30pc of areas in the country. In city centre east, 5.1pc of properties do not have ‘decent broadband’ and 17.2pc in the University and Avenues area.
Work has been done to try to boost broadband in Norfolk, through the Better Broadband for Norfolk campaign and work by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.
Bosses at the LEP said it had pumped £5m in Norfolk and Suffolk to extend the reach of superfast broadband and, in February, along with county councils, lobbied for better mobile connectivity at an infrastructure summit at the Houses of Parliament.
The Norfolk & Suffolk Innovation Network, which has been given £440,000 in funding aims to create a network to explore, trial and implement Internet of Things (IoT) technology.
That is a network that can send and receive low power signals from digital sensors used in a wide variety of sectors, including flood and traffic management and agri-tech, and alleviate the pressure on the main public networks.
Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia LEP, said: “Connectivity is crucial for the economic success of the region and strengthening the reliability of high-quality mobile coverage is one of the ambitions in the Economic Strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk.
“Covid-19 has served to illustrate just how important this is to businesses and households, and we will be doing everything we can to improve broadband speeds as part of the work around the economic recovery plan for our region.”
Geoff Connell, director of information management technology and chief digital officer at Norfolk County Council, said: “We recognise the importance good digital connectivity has on the region’s economy, particularly with more people than ever now working from home, which is why the council is working on a range of initiatives to make Norfolk the best connected rural county in the UK.
“The latest independent data shows current variances across the east of England are directly comparable with levels of population density, as connectivity is inevitably better in urban areas.
“But the government has set ambitious targets to provide Gigabit capability to all UK households by 2025. This will be achieved through a combination of commercial investment from providers and a number of government backed schemes.”
The estimates are based on parliamentary analysis of Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2019 report and spring 2020 update, with coverage data relating to January 2020 and speed data to May 2019.
Better broadband ‘has been transformative’
The benefits of better broadband extend far beyond being able to watch Game Of Thrones during lockdown, according to one Norfolk businessman.
John Brooks, who runs an online recruitment company from his Happisburgh home, is an example of how better connections can boost a business.
In 2016 he told this newspaper how slow speeds were hampering rural businesses like his. But since then everything has changed.
He said: “It has been transformative. About two years ago, the strong fibre from the Walcott exchange came to Happisburgh, right into our cottage. We went from half a mega to 300 megs.
“It’s made my capability to work from home possible. It’s not cheap, but it proves the point that if they make systems available, people will pay for it.
“And having access to Netflix and reruns of Game Of Thrones has made lockdown bearable.”