Waveney conference aims to boost Suffolk Broadband speeds

A BROADBAND technology summit is taking place today with the aim of winning government investment for improving Suffolk's online connectivity speeds.

Suffolk Broadband Conference, put together by Waveney MP Peter Aldous, is set to strengthen a bid for funding to bring rural parts of the region up to speed with the rest of the UK.

An audience of business owners, council representatives and experts will hear plans for the delivery of superfast services in the county from a number of speakers including Communications, Culture and the Creative Industries minister, Ed Vaizey.

Waveney House Hotel, in Beccles, is the venue for today's (Wednesday) conference, which Mr Aldous hopes will encourage the investment of public money to secure good quality, fast broadband connectivity across the county.

The MP is joined by fellow MPs Dan Poulter, Tim Yeo and Therese Coffey in supporting the Better Broadband for Suffolk project, led by Andy Wood, chairman of Choose Suffolk, which hopes to encourage the idea of superfast broadband to all communities in the county.

Mr Aldous said: 'If we just leave this to the markets, they will concentrate on easy-to-reach areas which tend to be around main towns.

'The Government is allocating money to provide full comprehensive coverage and bids can be put forward to tap into that money. Choose Suffolk has worked up a proposal which will be part of the bid submitted to the Government later this month.'

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Mr Aldous was heartened to learn the last two counties to be awarded broadband investment – Cumbria and Herefordshire – both held similar summits ahead of the announcement.

Other speakers addressing the audience will today include Robert Ling from Broadband Delivery UK – the body responsible for allocating Government funding to the regions – and Bill Murphy, director of next generation access at BT.

The Better Broadband campaign aims to secure a chunk of the �530m reserved by the Government to implement its policies on superfast connectivity.

Mr Aldous added: 'We do an increasing amount of business, learning and social interaction online. But we are at a disadvantage if the system is very slow compared to other parts of the world.

'In more rural areas, where services are being cut, people may rely on their connection to get health advice or to order prescriptions.

'And we don't want diversifying businesses to be put off rural Suffolk by slow broadband.'

In February a detailed breakdown of broadband 'not spots' in Suffolk revealed that almost 67,000 people were still without acceptable access to the internet – putting nearly 10% of households and businesses in areas with very slow broadband connectivity, and hundreds of families without any at all.

The large distances between homes and telecommunications exchanges in rural Suffolk mean that conventional cabling is not as effective.

Getting broadband to remote communities can be a costly civil engineering exercise but the conference will explore how costs can be reduced through shared infrastructure between schools, hospitals, local government, energy networks and other service providers.