Around 315,000 properties now have the option of using fibre broadband, an increase of more than 127,000 from when the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme started deployment in 2013. Suffolk County Council has reiterated its commitment to provide high-speed internet access for all properties in the county – no-one will be left behind.
Starting with the signing of an extended agreement with Openreach, the local network business which is part of BT Group, to make high-speed broadband available to around 50,000 more properties, reaching 98% of all properties during 2020, the county council is working on plans to ensure every Suffolk property, regardless of its location, can access high-speed broadband services. This includes lobbying Government to support full rollout to the most rural areas.
Cllr Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member responsible for broadband, said: “While it’s great that 90% of Suffolk homes and businesses are now connected to fibre broadband, there is still more work to be done to get the entire county connected to high-speed internet. We remain committed to delivering that, and making sure that no-one is left behind. The new agreement to reach 98% during 2020 is a big leap forward, and adds to the significant increase in broadband coverage since we started this work in 2010. But we’re now facing the toughest challenge – connecting the properties in the most remote locations in Suffolk. It’s the farms, the hamlets and the really rural communities that need our support. A lot of hard work has gone into getting where we are now and this will continue as we strive to give everyone in Suffolk faster internet speeds.”
The programme is working with local communities in some of the more remote rural areas on innovative solutions to extending broadband coverage, including ‘self-dig’ schemes. One example is Baylham Stone in Mid Suffolk. The village of Baylham is due to get fibre broadband in the next few months, but the small hamlet of Baylham Stone, just over 1km away, was beyond the economic reach of the deployment plan. Residents got together and raised the money required to pay for a ‘self-dig’ scheme to route a fibre optic cable along a footpath joining the communities. Working with the local landowner, the self-dig was recently completed, and the residents of Baylham Stone will soon be joining those in Baylham in benefiting from high-speed broadband. Steve Haines, Managing Director of next generation access for Openreach, said: “Our partnership with the county council in Suffolk continues to be a huge success. It’s transformed the way people get online. We know how important it is for people in rural areas to have superfast download speeds and we’re delighted to be in a position to be able to extend our work across the county, thanks to the overwhelming success of the programme so far. It is another very important step forward for the county because whatever you do online you can do it better with fibre broadband.”
Minister of State for Digital, Matt Hancock said: "Our rollout of superfast broadband has already reached hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in Suffolk, but there's more to be done. We want everyone to have access to fast and reliable broadband, and I'm delighted that this new contract means even more people are going to benefit from our continued investment in better broadband for Suffolk. I know how important this is right across Suffolk and I will strain every sinew to deliver for Suffolk."
Mark Pendlington, Chair of the New Anglia LEP, said: “This is another major step forward in the digital transformation of Suffolk which is essential if the county is to become the best place in the UK to live, work and learn. We will now reinvigorate our campaign to focus on the final two per cent of those who will be without access to broadband after 2020, to make sure that this essential universal service is available to all families, homes and businesses across Suffolk.”
The switch to fibre broadband will not be automatic. Each household or business will need to contact its broadband service provider to upgrade. To check if your property can access superfast broadband, visit the website at www.betterbroadbandsuffolk.com.