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Extra £5m investment will help fibre broadband reach rural Norfolk

Wednesday, August 5th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A £5.3m investment is to extend the rollout of superfast broadband in Norfolk.

The funding comes from the £129m being made available to Broadband Delivery UK projects by BT because take-up of fibre broadband has been better than expected.

It is being made available to Norfolk to reinvest in providing further superfast broadband coverage to even more homes and businesses earlier than originally planned.

Better Broadband for Norfolk is currently working with BT to obtain the extra money and to decide how it could be used to extend coverage throughout the county – with properties in hard to reach places a priority.

Dr Marie Strong, chair of the Broadband Working Group at Norfolk County Council, said: “This extra money means we will be able to bring high-speed broadband to a significantly greater number of rural homes and businesses in Norfolk.

“With public money invested in the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme, it’s vital that we get the best value for money from the contract and recouping over £5m that we can reinvest in the project is an excellent result.”

Dr Strong, who is also a member of the Better Broadband for Norfolk Steering Group, added: “Since Better Broadband for Norfolk got underway two-and-a-half years ago and over this time high-speed broadband has been made available to around 160,000 premises, and more and more homes and businesses are getting access to the new fibre network every month.

“There is still more to do and, while many villages and market towns in Norfolk have already benefited from the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme, bringing high-speed broadband to some of the more remote parts of Norfolk is particularly challenging.

'Broadband inequality'

“So an extra £5.3m will be a great help and, by the time the project finishes, should mean that broadband inequality in the county is virtually eliminated.”

Steve Edwards, BT group director for next generation access, said: “The fibre broadband rollout is a real success story, and we’re delighted to be able to share that success with Norfolk by making £5.3m available to help connect some of the hardest to reach homes and businesses.

“The open network which we’re rolling out brings real choice to communities and this is helping to drive take-up which is key to the programme’s future.”

The £5.3m is being made available as a result of a ‘gain share’ clause in the phase 1 BDUK contract BT agreed with Norfolk that allows the funding BT has received to be reinvested over a number of years into further coverage if take-up is better than the 20% expected in BT’s original business case.

The higher take-up rate to date has resulted in BT making a new estimate of reaching 30% take-up in these areas.

Cable.co.uk reported last year that Chris Townsend, BDUK’s CEO, expected take-up exceed 30% by the time the project comes to a close in 2017.

Chris Starkie, managing director of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We need to be a mobile and accessible world-class economy and high speed broadband is as essential as road and rail improvements.

“This extra £5.3m will bring broadband to more homes and businesses boosting the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme which has already reached 160,000 premises in the county.”

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