Sign up if you want faster broadband, Norfolk businesses and familes are urged
Jon WelchHouseholders, businesses and other organisations across the region are being urged to register their interest in faster, more reliable broadband in a bid to convince BT and other providers to bring next-generation coverage to our towns and villages.Jon Welch
Householders, businesses and other organisations across the region are being urged to register their interest in faster, more reliable broadband in a bid to convince BT and other providers to bring next-generation coverage to our towns and villages.
The East of England Development Agency (Eeda) is hoping its survey will prove the demand for better broadband in the region is high enough to justify the expense involved in upgrading the network.
The scheme, called Erebus (Eastern Region Broadband Uplift Scheme) asks people to register their postcode and gives them the option of leaving a message for potential suppliers, specifying their requirements and giving reasons why they want faster broadband.
It comes ahead of a conference in Norwich on Friday at which a senior BT executive will challenge businesses and local authorities in Norfolk to lobby for government cash to bring faster broadband to the countryside and other areas with poor provision.
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Shaping Norfolk's Future, the county's economic development partnership, is leading a campaign to get broadband coverage improved, and is warning that without investment, Norfolk businesses and communities could be left in the internet slow lane.
The Erebus project aims to use the information it gathers at postcode level to attract funding from business and the European Commission. Householders are being reassured that while the anonymised information will be made available to 'credible and legitimate' potential suppliers, their personal details will not be shared.
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While Norwich has the second-highest broadband penetration per head of any local authority area in the country (48.3 per cent) other districts in Norfolk fare less well.
The figure for Great Yarmouth is 35.9pc while other districts scored as follows: Broadland 33.2pc, King's Lynn and West Norfolk, 26.5pc, South Norfolk 25.7pc, Breckland 25.2pc and North Norfolk 23.3pc.
The statistics were collated by broadband analysts Point Topic, whose chief executive Oliver Johnson said: 'Norfolk is definitely suffering from patchy high-speed broadband coverage. The county is handicapped by its geography and population spread.
'Compared to the rest of the country it is performing averagely, but the prospects for the future don't look as rosy as in the Home Counties, Midlands and Liverpool and Manchester.'
Broadband consultant Michael Mulquin, chief executive of IS Communications, has worked with King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council on improving coverage in the district and is a passionate advocate of faster broadband for the county.
He said: 'The longer your telephone line and your distance from the exchange, the poorer your connectivity - and if it's too long, there is no way you can get any connectivity at all. Norfolk suffers because there are lots of small settlements a long way from the exchange.'
Mr Mulquin said even typical broadband speeds in Norwich of 3.5 to 4 Megabits per second (Mbps) - a distant dream for many towns and villages - were unlikely to be sufficient for much longer.
He urged individuals, businesses and other organisations to register their interest in faster broadband through the Erebus website.
'It's important to show that we are aware of the value of this and the difference it can make to our lives. We need to show the providers it's worth them investing in it.'
Life in the fast lane - the importance of a quick broadband connection
A connection speed of 2Mbps is about the minimum required to watch streamed video such as the BBC iPlayer and YouTube over the internet, according to broadband expert Oliver Johnson of Point Topic.
If your connection is under 5Mbps, you may find it difficult to play online games, while poor 'latency' - the time it takes for the internet to acknowledge that a user has pressed a key - could make the difference between your character in the game surviving or being 'fragged'.
At anything under 8Mbps, you won't be able to watch High Definition TV from providers including the BBC, Sky and ITV through your PC.
Businesses are also increasingly relying on high-speed broadband. 'Companies working in graphics and design regularly swap files of 100MB or 200MB - for instance, artwork to look at or to send to the printers - and without a high-speed connection, that could take literally hours,' said Mr Johnson.
If your home or business is suffering because of poor broadband coverage, contact reporter Jon Welch on 01603 772476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org