‘Huge problem’ over broadband in Waveney

THE need for faster broadband in Waveney was highlighted at a key event aimed at encouraging rural enterprise and boosting prosperity in North Suffolk.

More than 60 delegates attended the Beyond Rural Enterprise conference which sought to raise awareness of important issues and challenges relating to rural business.

Fran Bedding, Suffolk county external funding manager, was among speakers at the event in Bungay last Friday and she stressed the growing need for faster broadband.

She said: 'It is a huge problem.

'There are areas in the county where it is not possible to access the internet.

'We want to see faster broadband in rural areas and have been working for the last year with a range of partners to address the problem.'

Mrs Bedding said fast broadband was vital for local businesses. 'Businesses need good broadband to enable them to compete more effectively for contracts.

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'And it also creates the right impression to their customers,' she said.

'If they have a really good website it is a way of accessing new and different markets.'

The rural summit brought together commercial, voluntary, social enterprise and the public sector and included a series of short presentations and workshops.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous also presented awards to rural community champions and spoke about the coalition government's policies for the rural economy.

The summit was organised by Lowestoft-based The Community Forum, Suffolk County Council and Waveney District Council and was held at the Fisher Theatre in Bungay.

Martyn Burnside, The Community Forum's chief officer, said the idea for the event came after Suffolk received a 'red flag' in an Audit Commission report last year for rural economic inequality and lack of high value jobs; learning and skills outcomes.

The commission found that large areas in Suffolk are economically under developed and there are not enough 'high value' jobs.

Mr Burnside said: 'The event aims to bring together the commercial, voluntary, social enterprise and public sector representatives in order to raise their awareness of key topical issues relating to rural business, rural enterprise and community initiatives – and how these key components of the rural economy can work towards a future of rural prosperity and improved quality of life.'

He added: 'The idea came from the Audit Commission report last year when Suffolk got a red flag because it was not doing particularly well in terms of rural economy.

'I got together with Suffolk County Council officers and Waveney District Council and said we ought to do something about this.

'The idea of holding this meeting was so we could get some good examples of what was happening positively and build on things for the future.'