Bid for superfast broadband in Suffolk
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Suffolk is aiming to become the first county in Britain to put every property within range of superfast broadband, it can be revealed.
Officials at Suffolk County Council and its partner BT are hopeful that every home, business, school and other facility in the region can get fast broadband by 2020.
And BT is planning to use rural communities in Suffolk as test beds for wireless technology that could then be rolled out across the country.
The Better Broadband for Suffolk has now brought an extra 70,000 properties within reach of superfast online speeds across the county.
That means 70 per cent of the population of Suffolk now has access to the technology and officials at the county council are confident that the target of the initial programme – 85 per cent of the county's residents – will have access to the technology by October this year.
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Nearly a fifth of properties that could access the technology, more than 13,000 individual addresses, have taken advantage of the improved technology – and when the 20 per cent figure is reached, Suffolk should be able to claw back some of the costs of the scheme.
Work has already started on the second phase of the programme, which will make broadband available to 95 per cent of properties in Suffolk.
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The county is working with its partners at BT to come up with solutions to bring broadband to the last five per cent of properties.
During his visit to Suffolk last week, culture secretary Sajid Javid - whose department is responsible for the roll-out of broadband across the country - went to the north of the county to see how the scheme was progressing.
He said: 'The progress in Suffolk has been some of the best in the country.
'There is still more to do and what I have found is how important it is to work with local MPs, businesses and other to get the programme completed.'
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AIM TO REACH THE LAST FIVE PER CENT OF HOMES
With BT's research centre at Martlesham, the company is working closely with the county council on finding ways to bring broadband to the last five per cent of properties in Suffolk, many in the most rural parts of the county.
The aim is to get superfast broadband with a speed of 100MBps to every property in the county by 2020.
After reaching 85 per cent by the end of this year, the second phase of the project – reaching 95 per cent of properties – should be reached by the end of 2017, giving three years to reach the last properties.
But putting properties within reach of the technology is just part of the battle – internet service providers like Sky, TalkTalk and other companies have to be persuaded to use the lines to improve broadband coverage.
County council leader Mark Bee said: 'We don't know that we will be left with exactly five per cent, it could be less than that – but once you get there you are looking at isolated addresses or small communities a long way from a BT exchange.
'But working with BT, we think we can reach all of them by 2020 and become the first county in Britain to be fully connected.'
Mr Bee said:
'That is looking very promising and hopefully what we learn there can be rolled out across the county and then BT can follow this up elsewhere.'