£5.3m boost for broadband

Extra £5.3m boost for broadband

The Government has now announced plans to spend an additional £5.3 million on the ongoing project to roll out superfast connections across Norfolk.

Details of exactly where the money will be spent have yet to be finalised.

But South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said the announcement, when combined with money which has already been set aside by county and district councils, would mean a further £12 million was being spent on the scheme.

She said: “This is great news for Norfolk and demonstrates the commitment to see access to superfast broadband across the county.

“Access to efficient and reliable broadband is as fundamental as having good roads and rail. For households and businesses, it is not a luxury but a key component of everyday life.”

Figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which is overseeing the programme, estimate that around 35,000 properties across Ms Truss’ constituency now have access to superfast broadband connections, around 70 per cent of the total.

In the latest works, covering the three months to the end of June, more than 2,000 addresses were either fully or partially connected to the network. Areas covered by the work include Upwell, Marshland St James, Terrington St John, Tilney St Lawrence, Narborough and Swaffham.

The latest money is being drawn from the government’s contracts with BT, which enable additional investment to be made when the take-up rate of new technology exceeds target levels.

Officials say levels of access to superfast broadband have almost doubled in the past five years. And Ms Truss said the extra cash would be particularly welcome in order to extend connections to more remote rural communities.

She said: “BT are currently exploring the options for smaller cabinets in the more remote locations and I expect further details to be made available in the new year.

“As a member of the government’s digital task force I will continue to ensure that this is a priority.”

The current broadband programme, which is targeting 95 per cent coverage, runs until 2017.

North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said he was aware of a number of areas in his constituency where residents and community leaders are unhappy that they have so far been excluded from the programme.

But he maintained that the government was well aware of how important digital connections are, particularly in countryside communities.

He said: “I think the county council, and especially the broadband team, has done a fantastic job. Great progress has been made, but there is more to do.”