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Norfolk businesses put their case across for better broadband

PUBLISHED: 20:12 31 March 2011 | UPDATED: 20:42 31 March 2011

Picture of Tony Abel of Abel Homes, Little Cressingham

Picture of Tony Abel of Abel Homes, Little Cressingham

Archant © 2009

The EDP has launched a joint campaign with Norfolk County Council to help provide a faster broadband service to the county. Reporter Ben Woods has spoken to business leaders from key sectors to find out how a faster service would improve their businesses in the future.

How to back the bid

To secure millions of pounds of government funding, Norfolk County Council needs to show the economic impact better broadband would have on the area.

We need to hear from business managers and owners from across Norfolk to find out how their companies are hindered by sluggish speeds and would benefit from improved broadband access.

We also want employees to encourage their bosses to tell their stories.

To show your support, visit www.EDP24.co.uk and download the Broadband: Back the Bid testimonial form.

Once you’ve filled it in, send it to Sandra Mackay, EDP Editorial, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

Please send in your forms by Friday April 8 to ensure your story is included in the county council bid.

•Tourism

A faster broadband speed means businesses could spend less money on the number of internet connections they need to run their operation, the chief executive of Fakenham Racecourse revealed.

David Hunter, who runs the racecourse and campsite on Dereham Road, is installing a new wi-fi connection because his broadband speed cannot cope with some of the demands of his business.

Mr Hunter uses one connection to wirelessly charge an electronic scoreboard, and provide journalists with a service for uploading information.

But the high-demand means on the connection means speed it is often sluggish, which has led him to look into the possibility of investing in a new wi-fi connection at an additional cost.

This could be avoided, however, if the broadband speed in the region was faster by allowing Norfolk businesses to save the money they spend on multiple internet connections, and use one instead.

“So much of our business is done online - the majority of our communications and the upgrade on the rules of racing all comes through our internet access,” he said

“The stewards on race day rely on their emails, whilst the doctors looking after the jockeys work without paper and process their files online.

“If there was an increase in broadband speed, making it more reliable, then it would be a huge benefit to us.”

•Transport

The managing director of an online car hire company feels Norfolk businesses are missing out on cutting-edge computer services, and customers, due to the inconsistent broadband service in the county.

Rory Sexton of Economy Car Hire believes an improved broadband service would mean customers with a slow connection, or no broadband at all, would become accessible to businesses which take the majority of their profit from online sales.

Meanwhile, the owner of the Dereham-based company said faster broadband speed would help local businesses to cut the money they spent on IT by allowing them to transfer their data storage online.

But this system could only be used if broadband upload speeds were improved to deal with the vast amounts of data being uploaded to the internet hosts.

Mr Sexton, who runs the company which takes 95pc of its profits from online, said: “I think it is an absolute must that consumers have access to broadband because otherwise they will not be able to take advantage of cheap car hire.

“For start-up businesses, cloud computing services means they do not have to pay such a huge investment in IT because it allows you to access online resources on-demand, rather than having to pay for them up-front.

“But without a fast broadband service, Norfolk businesses could be at a competitive disadvantage.”

•Retail

One Norfolk retail business would be able to offer its customers a more interactive online service if Norfolk broadband speeds were improved.

Flooringsupplies.co.uk, based in Thetford, invested in an online video project, but delayed the launch due to fears that not enough Norfolk customers had the internet speeds to access it.

The multimedia project would provide customers with video description of each floor as well as enabling the company to improve the profile of their own flooring brand, Natura, which consists of 65pc of their sales.

Meanwhile, managing director Adrian Lee also said he would consider relocating his business to an area with a better broadband service, creating concerns that thriving business may leave the region if the internet speed does not improve.

Mr Lee, who’s company had made an £11m turnover this year, said: “As an evolving business we are constantly having to update the website - the uptake on e-commerce is huge.

“We have a big investment in a video, but until everybody has broadband speed we are holding back.

“I think it is unacceptable today that some areas are still without broadband because it means we are still waiting for that circle of customers to become available.

“ I am not saying we will, but if we could relocate to somewhere with better broadband speed then we would have to consider it.

“Expanding broadband can only continue to bring Norfolk companies to the forefront.”

•Construction

Fast broadband is vital for the future of a Norfolk construction company which is dedicated to improving its communication with staff and potential home buyers.

Abel homes, based in the village of Little Cressingham, near Thetford, uses a high-speed internet connection to transfer housing plans between its architects and engineers.

But the company is eager to see the broadband speed improved so it can continue to move aspects of the planning process online and keep home buyers better informed of the building process.

Tony Abel, managing director of Abel homes, said: “Of course we always want faster connections- if you stand still in any aspect of business, the rest of the world will leave you behind.

“Increasingly our home buyers are doing their research online, and so our web presence is a vital part of our marketing mix.

“It is very clear that more tasks will be carried out online as time goes on. Three years ago we started ‘Site Diaries’ ,which are blogs maintained by our site managers to keep people informed about the construction’s progress. This is appreciated by people who are buying a house or living in proximity of the site.”

•Energy

Thousands of pounds could be saved on telephone and communication costs with the introduction of better broadband, the managing director of a Norfolk company revealed.

Kevin Keable of online training site, Oilennium, based in Loddon, believes a faster internet in the region would enable businesses to transfer their telephone services online where the cost of line rental and calls are free.

Mr Keable, whose company provides training courses and competence testing for offshore workers, said: “We are really dependent on broadband because most of our work is for American based companies, but the speed in Loddon is not great. Recently a collegue came back from Dubai where they have wide-spread broadband and he described it as coming from electric powered train to a steam powered one.

“We are quite media hungry at Oilennium and use a lot of video and animation in our material, but at the moment we could not have those files based here because of the speed. Instead we use a server in Houston to supply our training to 50,000 people worldwide.

“If we had fibre-optic capability it would save us so much money because we could use cloud computing technology to do our telephone service over the internet. Costs of thousands of pounds a year would go down to nothing.

• Do you want to back the bid for better broadband in the county? Click on the link at the top right hand corner of the page and download a form.

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