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Former Suffolk County Council leader's broadband success

PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 June 2015

Mark Bee, foreground with Bill Murphy from BT and Waveney MP Peter Aldous at one of the upgraded broadband boxes.

Mark Bee, foreground with Bill Murphy from BT and Waveney MP Peter Aldous at one of the upgraded broadband boxes.

Archant

Introducing superfast broadband to rural parts of Suffolk is one of Mark Bee's most significant achievements, the outgoing county council leader has said.

Mark Bee’s last cabinet meeting endorsed the county’s aim of achieving 100 per cent coverage of superfast broadband across Suffolk by 2020. Superfast broadband is defined as offering typical speeds of 100Mbps.

The cabinet also noted that all properties in the county should get access to broadband speeds of 2Mbps by the end of this year.

And it also committed the authority to continue work on improving mobile phone coverage across Suffolk.

Over the last four years, the county council has invested nearly £22million on bringing broadband to all parts of the county. The government and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership has invested a further £32million – and partner BT has also put money into the project.

By September last year, 85 per cent of properties in the county had access to the technology – up from 65 per cent when the programme started – and by late 2017, 95 per cent of properties should have access to superfast broadband.

The last five per cent (about 17,500 premises) are the most difficult to reach and may require different solutions – but Mr Bee said it was important to have a commitment to reach them all with superfast broadband by 2020.

He said: “Suffolk is the first county to make that pledge and it is very important to restate that today to underline the importance this authority places on that work.

“In my time as leader this is the project that has been the most important for Suffolk – it is the programme that has really helped to improve life in the county for individuals and businesses.”

While much of the programme has concentrated on rural areas, there were also areas of towns that had seen improved coverage – and that was especially true when it came to the need to improve mobile phone coverage.

Parts of the county remain mobile “not-spots” for users of some of the country’s most popular networks.

Labour group leader Sandy Martin said: “I visited my mother in Halesworth, and I have to say I got a better 3G signal at her house than I have ever got at my home in Ipswich.” He said it was vital that the pressure to improve the county’s technology infrastructure was kept up – and that the new cabinet that takes over after Thursday endorses the proposal.

Over the last four years, 80,000 Suffolk premises have been offered superfast broadband and 1,000 miles of optical fibre cabling has been laid. To date, 323 street cabinets have been upgraded – and over the next 12 to 18 months, Suffolk is to get 11 new phone masts.

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