Norfolk Broadband project is driven by superfast ambitions

This map highlights the bleak situation which risks choking Norfolk's ability to communicate with the rest of the world.

The shaded areas show the maximum extent of superfast broadband (30Mbps minimum) expected to be available by the end of 2012, without the intervention of the Better Broadband for Norfolk project.

Although it includes the planned commercial upgrades announced by BT, it still leaves about 60pc of the county with no access to the next-generation fibre network which will become ever more crucial in the coming years.

This huge internet wilderness includes more than 50,000 private and business properties in 'not spots', struggling with very slow speeds under 2Mbps or no broadband access at all.

But connecting those more isolated, less commercially viable rural areas is only part of the reason why it is so important that as many people as possible register their interest in the upgrade.

Because even the town and city dwellers lucky enough to have a useable connection right now will still require superfast speeds in future if they want to run the computer applications currently under development.

Karen O'Kane, programme director for the Better Broadband for Norfolk project, said it was crucial to 'future-proof' the county's communications infrastructure to keep pace with the rapid changes in the world of technology.

Most Read

'Many people will already be getting 8-10Mbps and be quite happy with it,' she said. 'There are no killer apps at the moment that require superfast speeds, but we know they are coming. This is about getting the infrastructure in place that will meet those needs now. It is about future-proofing.

'There is nothing in domestic use at the moment that requires 30Mbps. If you are a resident with between 10 and 20Mbps, you can get TV on demand, talk to people on Skype, and you could probably have two or three people in the house using it comfortably at the same time.

'However, we know the applications will turn up that require more and more speed in the next few years.'

Through its Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funding scheme, the government has committed to ensuring 90pc of the country has superfast internet by 2015.

Miss O'Kane said she did not want to limit Norfolk's ambitions by setting the same target.

'This 90pc is the national commitment, but we are going to push for 'as much as possible' so if we can exceed 90pc, we will,' she said.

'The government recognised some time ago that broadband was a huge economic enabler and had enormous social benefits. It drew the conclusion that two thirds of the country by 2015 would have superfast broadband but one third would not. That third is not uniform and in Norfolk it is more like 60pc who won't have superfast by 2015 if we relied purely on commercial intervention.'

The Norfolk broadband team is working with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to help create a 'national framework contract' which will speed the eventual procurement process.

Four remaining bidders are being evaluated at the moment – BT, Fujitsu, BeyonDSL and Balfour Beatty consortium – any or all of which could be selected as agreed suppliers when the process is completed at the end of March.

Norfolk, along with Devon, Somerset and Wiltshire, will be the first to use the completed national framework as the basis for a 'Norfolk call-off contract', starting from April.

But because not all companies are expected to bid for every county, Miss O'Kane said it was even more important to prove that Norfolk had an attractive potential customer base, in order to generate a competitive tendering process which will deliver the best value for money.

'Even if all four are accepted they can still choose which counties they bid for,' she said. 'We want to drive that leverage up as far as we possibly can, and one way of doing that is to prove that lots of people want this.'

You can register your interest in superfast broadband at the county council's dedicated website, which will be launched on Wednesday, or by completing the printed form in today's EDP.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter