Suffolk conference hears that broadband money is on the horizon

HIGH speed broadband is coming to Suffolk.

That was the message from government minister Ed Vaizey as he spoke to business owners, council representatives and experts from across the county yesterday.

The minister for communications, culture and creative industries explained that the government was putting forward the money so that the UK could achieve its target of having the best superfast broadband in Europe by 2015.

He did not make any guarantees that Suffolk would be chosen in this year's allocation of funds, but confirmed that money would soon be available after these pilots for when regions were properly ready to receive it.

Mr Vaizey was speaking at a Suffolk Broadband Conference at the Waveney House Hotel, in Beccles.

The conference, which was organised by Waveney MP Peter Aldous, saw MPs, council members and local businesses discuss the importance of a superfast service for Suffolk and the rural areas in particular.

In his keynote speech Mr Vaizey explained that the government was putting forward �530m for broadband development, with a further �300m between 2015 and 2017.

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He said that this money would be used to cover the areas that the service providers would not support.

'People are chafing at the bit to get broadband and for those sitting at home with no broadband it looks like a slow process but we are building and from 2012 it will really begin to accelerate,' he said.

Mr Vaizey said that he had met a delegation of Suffolk MPs in London a few months ago and said that he could see they were very focused on the issue.

However, he warned that the process for fast broadband was not a quick one.

'There is no silver bullet, no one solution on the table that can deliver it. That is why the process from afar seems slow. No-one is pretending we have all the answers,' he said.

When quizzed from those concerned that the government was missing the reality of the current situation he said that there was no point in putting in technology that will quickly become obsolete.

Suffolk has to make its bid for government funding by April 18 it is to be included in the second wave of pilots, but Mr Vaizey said that after this it will become first come first served.

He said: 'The key is planning. It is very important that we want a solution brought to us by the county council or consortium of local authorities. It has got to be a partnership.'

Andy Wood, from the Choose Suffolk proposal, explained to the conference that he felt they did have a strong-team approach with a 'robust, resilient and forward looking' plan.

'This is a team Suffolk approach. All the local MPs, Suffolk county council, all of the districts have put their money where their mouth is. The police, health in Suffolk, they have also put small amounts of money behind the bid, as well as local enterprise, chambers of commerce and Choose Suffolk,' he said.

'We think better broadband in Suffolk will deliver growth of 15-20pc, which is about �2bn – a great return on investment for the government.'

He said that if funding was secured development would start by the end of the year. The ultimate vision is 100MB broadband to 100pc of homes and businesses in the county by 2020.

The current problems faced in the county were summed up by broadband commentator Adrian Wooster who explained that people in Waveney and Suffolk coastal areas were three times more likely to suffer slow lines than anybody in Ipswich.

MP for central Suffolk and north Ipswich Dan Poulter said: 'It is so important to our county we have got to deliver on this.

'We know how important having effective highspeed broadband for the whole of Suffolk is. Our clear priority is to get high speed for Suffolk, so that our county gets what is deserves.'

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said he was delighted to see such a broad group of people attending and said that it was important to learn from past mistakes with infrastructure.

He said: 'We must get it right, what superfast broadband can do to regenerate villages and towns.

'Good broadband connections are vital for business and if we do not have that businesses won't come here.'

Others who spoke at the conference included Bill Murphy, director of next generation access at BT, Robert Ling from the Broadband Delivery UK Vision and Roger Turkington from Suffolk ACRE.

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