Choose Suffolk launch rural broadband campaign
A MAJOR new campaign has boosted hopes of bringing super-fast broadband to rural Suffolk.
Choose Suffolk is aiming to send a strong message to Government by uniting individuals, businesses and the public sector behind the initiative.
It comes just weeks after Suffolk missed out on being included in a pilot scheme to ensure faster broadband speeds in rural areas.
'The launch of today's campaign is a clarion call from Suffolk,' said Andy Wood, co-ordinator of the I'm Backing Better Broadband for Suffolk campaign.
'For thousands of individuals and families in our county, being linked up to the rest of the world via the information superhighway remains a problem which must be rectified.'
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Campaign organisers say faster internet speeds could make a life-changing difference to Suffolk society and the business, education, health and entertainment sectors.
Mr Wood, chairman of Choose Suffolk, a public and private partnership which supports businesses, said: 'We know that giving a child who has not had internet access via broadband that access results in an increase in attainment in their GCSEs.
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'If our campaign has the backing of businessmen and businesswomen, of doctors and nurses, of teachers and students, of gamers, internet shoppers and anyone who relies on broadband in anyway, the government will have to listen and together we can ensure Suffolk does indeed have the broadband it deserves.'
Choose Suffolk says under current government plans one third of Suffolk will be served by super-fast broadband by 2015. But that will still leave half a million people without access.
Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said on average four constituents a week complain to her about slow broadband.
Dr Coffey added: 'I see having high-speed broadband in this century as the same as having a good road in previous times.
'It's exceptionally patchy, but generally pretty poor and this is a blocker to lots of things.'
Nicola Currie, regional director for the Country, Land and Business Association, said broadband was so important she considered it the 'fourth utility'.
She added: 'Broadband is vital to the rural economy in this day and age, you can't run a business wihout good, reliable, high-speed broadband.
'For example, in the farming community, we have increasing numbers of forms that need to be filled in online and the businesses that can't get good broadband are therefore held back.'
However, Dr Wil Gibson, chief executive of Suffolk Acre (Action with Communities in Rural Communities), said the campaign should consider a better mix of technology for rural areas.
'Many of the commercial operators' standard models won't apply to rural communities,' he said. 'Nobody is going to lay cables in rural communities – it's just not cost effective.
'We need to look at wireless and other types of technology to ensure such communities do not miss out.'
To register your support for the campaign, visit: www.choosesuffolk.com/betterbroadbandforsuffolk