Campaign to improve broadband access

People across East Anglia are being urged to join the battle to stamp out broadband 'notspots' that are frustrating rural users and crippling local businesses.

People across East Anglia are being urged to join the battle to stamp out broadband 'notspots' that are frustrating rural users and crippling local businesses.

Throughout parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire there is growing anger that many people cannot run businesses, access information, or keep in contact with friends over the web because they live in areas where broadband service is poor or not available.

Now the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is asking people across the region, 'tell us your horror stories.'

It wants to gather evidence of 'notspot' areas with broadband problems for its campaign for better broadband coverage.

This comes as a survey suggested three million UK homes, including rural and some suburban homes, have insufficient broadband speeds of less than two megabits per second (2Mbps).

Other organisations have also pledged their support for better broadband with one chief executive saying if the situation does not improve the area could be 'left in the technological slow lane.'

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Norfolk CLA chairman Chris Allhusen, said: 'The broadband situation is unacceptable. The CLA is very concerned that the rural economy and people living in a rural environment are being disadvantaged. We want to know what ministers and BT are going to do about it.

'At both the Suffolk Show and the Royal Norfolk Show we want people to tell us about their broadband problems. We will use the information to continue to lobby the government and BT.'

The government has promised to provide all UK homes with broadband speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2012, a speed which should usually enable people to download attachments, use iPlayer and access sites like Facebook.

BT has said 99pc of the country currently has access to broadband, although it admits this is not necessarily at a speed of 2Mbps.

The CLA said is has been contacted by many people having problems - including in Tittleshall, Houghton, Stowbridge, Clenchwarton and Happisburgh.

The EDP previously reported how BT said it was currently unable to improve broadband in the area serving Potters Leisure Resort at Hopton despite Potters chairman Brian Potter warning slow internet connections are jeopardising the future of major sporting events at the resort and rural businesses and Hilary Benn, secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, pledging to lobby BT to ensure broadband access was approved at the holiday resort.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of Shaping Norfolk's Future, said: 'Businesses across Norfolk will require fast broadband to remain competitive with other parts of the country and without this Norfolk's geographic isolation will be compounded by the county also being in the technological slow lane. We are going to have a meeting with BT and we are talking to businesses about how they are affected.'

Jon Clemo, acting chief executive of the Norfolk Rural Community Council, said it was important to 'stop the digital divide' and that pressure must be put on the government to put pressure on telecom companies.

John Leigh, head of ICT at Norfolk County Council's children's services, said e-learning is a major part of the school curriculum and the county had been awarded �3,167,882 to improve crucial broadband connections to schools.

A BT spokesman said the company had put a multi-million pound investment into upgrading exchanges to provide broadband across the region.

He added: 'We are committed to providing everyone who wants broadband with the service. We have blanket covered the UK with ADSL broadband across our copper network. We are aware of a very small number of customers attached to exchanges who experience slower speeds or perhaps cannot access broadband over their telephone line at all. We continue to trial new technologies.'

t The CLA will be at the Suffolk Show today and the Royal Norfolk Show on July 1 and 2. People can also tell the CLA about broadband issues by emailing or calling 01284 789201.

Whenever James Thompson uses the internet at his Beeston home most of his time seems to be spent drumming his fingers on his desk as he waits with frustration for the connection to work.

The parish councillor said he can only get dial up internet and it usually takes 15 minutes or more from the time he switches on his computer to when he is actually able to open an email.

In fact he has become so fed up with the situation he now goes to Dereham Library to use the internet instead.

He said: 'My wife runs a garden design business from home and if people send her folders with photographs it crashes the system.

'It is chronically slow and very irritating.'

Mr Thompson said 'a significant amount of people' in Beeston are affected, with some having no broadband connection and others a very slow service. He is leading a campaign to make BT hear their calls for better service. Residents are being urged to complain directly to BT online or by letter or phone.

Mr Thompson said: 'We want to embarrass BT into doing something.'

A BT spokesman said: 'Beeston is a distance away from the exchange which supplies it, but customers there are getting a broadband service. The speeds are affected by the length of the line, but we are committed to improving this.'