Silver surfers back Say Yes to Better Broadband in Norfolk campaign

'Silver surfers' researching their family history at a village library have added their support to an EDP-backed campaign aiming to bring better broadband to Norfolk.

The drop-in online ancestry session at Poringland Library was part of the Join up January initiative run by Norfolk County Council.

Visitors were given the chance to use the library's subscription to ancestry websites – and take advantage of the building's good broadband service, which some users said they could not access from their homes.

Sally Spruce, 65, from Rectory Lane in Poringland said her poor home connection had inspired her to sign up to the Say Yes to Better Broadband campaign, jointly run by Norfolk County Council and the EDP, which aims to prove the commercial demand for a project to equip the county with superfast internet.

'I tried to fill in the form online, but my connection was so bad I couldn't do it,' she said. 'But I have now managed to do it over the phone. I will tell all our friends to sign up as well.

'It is so frustrating when you are looking something up on the internet and it all stops so you have to start up again.'

Mrs Spruce was researching her family history with her 70-year-old sister Jackie Leggett, a retired driving instructor from nearby Topcroft, who shared the frustrations over her home internet service.

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'It is just getting on it that's the problem most of the time,' she said. 'If there is anything important you are trying to research, you sit down and you just want it to work. Otherwise, you just want to throw it out of the window.

'I would definitely encourage people to sign up. I know several friends who are always complaining how slow things are.'

Other avid ancestry researchers included Keith and Eileen Morley, from Windmill Close in Poringland,

Mrs Morley has traced her family back to the 1700s, and her husband has learned about his grandfather Arthur Shirley, who served in India with the Royal Sussex Regiment in the early 1900s.

Mr Morley, 76, a retired motor insurance claims engineer, said the couple enjoyed a good home broadband connection, but encouraged others to sign up for the campaign to improve the network for the whole county.

'If you don't ask, you don't get,' he said. 'Those that shout the loudest usually get the most.

'Eileen has been interested in her family history for a number of years and when we first started we had to go to the record offices in the areas where her ancestors come from. In Eileen's case, that's in Leicestershire and Rutland. We used to go there for hours and hours, going through microfiches and old newspapers. But of course, with the advent of these websites the amount of information you can get at hope these days is quite phenomenal.

'The internet is quite important for us because we use it for shopping, especially over the Christmas period. It's also important in keeping in touch with the family through email and Facebook.'

Mrs Morley, 75, agreed. 'It is very good for you when you are our age,' she said. 'We have got a grandson so we need to keep up with it. He is a good teacher – he always tells his grand-dad where he is going wrong.'

Community librarian Jean Archdeacon said some group members had taken up ancestry as a retirement hobby, sparking their interest in joining the generation of 'silver surfers' who are becoming increasingly reliant on broadband communications.

'Hobbies are a very good introduction to the internet,' she said. 'Some people who have not seen the need for it before have developed an interest in something like family history and realised that you can sit in a Norfolk library and research their family in Cornwall. It takes a lot of time and money to do that otherwise.

'Faster broadband will help every aspect of people's lives, whether its at work or at home. The library service is no different to anywhere else in Norfolk.'

The Better Broadband for Norfolk project aims to bring superfast 30Mbps download speeds to as much of the county as possible and a useable minimum of 2Mbps for everyone by 2015.

Although �30m of public funding has already been made available, the Say Yes campaign, run jointly by the EDP and Norfolk County Council, aims to prove the commercial demand which will attract private investment to the scheme. Norfolk residents and businesses can sign up online at www.norfolk.gov.uk/sayyesnorfolk, or by calling 0344 800 8023. A direct link to the registration website is available in the 'related links' section at the top right of this page.

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