The battle to provide better broadband in the Diss Express area has received a double-boost over the festive period.
Suffolk County Council has announced the second round of superfast broadband deployment has started ahead of schedule, while Breckland Council this week agreed to a £950,000 package to improve services in the district.
I am very proud that Suffolk is leading the way to deliver our communities high speed broadband connections. Our commitment remains to deliver Superfast Broadband to everyone in Suffolk as quickly as we canSuffolk County Council Leader Colin Noble
The £30 million contract in Suffolk with BT falls under the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme. It aims to extend coverage of superfast broadband to 95 per cent of premises in the county by 2019.
According to the Better Broadband for Suffolk website, parts of Redgrave, Fressingfield and Brome should be supplied with fibre broadband by September of this year.
However, Laxfield, Dennington, Redlingfield, Horham, Athelington and Wortham are among those that are under consideration for fibre services between 2016 and 2019.
Wortham and Burgate Parish Council chairman Stephen Rash criticised the “medieval” and “super-slow” speeds his parish were experiencing in January 2015, claiming a check two weeks ago showed his internet speed to be below 500kbs.
“There are businesses in the parish, I run a business and I have to do my VAT returns and pay roll returns,” he said. “It takes time and it drops off. Government forms are going online and it makes it very difficult.”
While he conceded it made sense to get faster broadband to more populated areas, he added: “What is worrying is that some urban areas are now up to huge speeds and we are getting next to nothing, so it seems a bit unfair.”
The start of the second-round deployment was marked with a new cabinet in Eye becoming ready for service.
Suffolk County Council’s Leader Colin Noble said: “It is important for all residents and businesses to understand that where high speed broadband service is available, they must contact their service provider to make the switch.
“I am very proud that Suffolk is leading the way to deliver our communities high speed broadband connections. Our commitment remains to deliver superfast broadband to everyone in Suffolk as quickly as we can.”
The £950,000 package for Breckland was agreed by district council chiefs this week.
The investment, which was approved by members of Breckland Council’s ruling cabinet on Tuesday morning, will be matched by similar investment from central government.
Officials say the money will help to ensure that up to 94 per cent of homes in the district will be able to access superfast connections over the coming years.
The investment will be made as part of the multi-million pound Better Broadband for Norfolk programme, which aims to improve connections across the county.
The authority says that the number of people with access to some form of broadband connection has soared from 30 per cent at the start of work in 2013 to 79 per cent currently.
Its leader, Michael Wassell, said: “Decent broadband connectivity is very important in this digital age, whether people are using it for shopping and keeping in touch with friends, or accepting business orders and contacting suppliers.
“More still needs to be done though, which is why we are continuing to support the Better Broadband for Norfolk initiative and to look at ways we can put this important infrastructure in place for as many people as possible.”
The cash had initially been set aside for the project in June 2014.
Meanwhile, the district is also set to benefit from a share of a £5.3 million rebate from the Better Broadband contract.
Overall in Norfolk, the county council said as of October 2015, their partnership with BT had enabled 185,885 “mainly rural” homes and businesses access to fibre broadband — ahead of schedule and under budget.
They said areas including Harleston and Starston were set to benefit from the second Better Broadband for Norfolk contract by the end of March this year.
The Diss Express reported in January that more of Suffolk was set to benefit from fibre optic broadband, with some areas having to wait longer than hoped for faster connection speeds.
The county council had said they were committed to providing all premises in Suffolk with speeds of at least 2Mbps by the end of 2015, with at least 85 per cent getting over 24Mbps.
However, due to further investment for fibre broadband after the commitment was made, a new contract was subsequently signed.