Which Suffolk market towns and villages are in line for ultrafast broadband?
PUBLISHED: 01:08 27 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:17 27 January 2020
A total of 22 market towns and villages in the East of England - including three on the Suffolk/Norfolk border - are set to get ultrafast broadband as part of a national plan to get it to 'harder-to-reach' areas.
Bungay, Earsham and Ditchingham are set to benefit from the scheme being rolled out by communications network provider Openreach following a successful pilot which included Kentford, near Newmarket.
Across the UK, more than 250,000 homes and businesses in more than 200 villages, market towns and rural areas are set to benefit.
Openreach says it is making "ultrafast, ultra-reliable and future-proof" broadband available in the region as part of a bigger announcement involving 2,271 'harder to reach' areas across the UK.
Building is set to start in the next 14 months, as it strives to reach its target to reach four million homes and businesses with 'full fibre' technology by the end of March 2021.
The company wants to extend its new 'full' fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network outside cities, building on successful cost-busting village trials launched at the tail end of last year in which engineers used a range of techniques to help build full fibre in areas previously considered too complex or expensive to upgrade.
Laura Whelan, Openreach's partnerships director in the East of England, said it was "great news", and built on the company's "strong track record" of working in rural areas, playing a key role alongside local councils to upgrade more than 96% of the East of England to superfast broadband.
"Today's announcement is about taking that next step and building a full fibre network that is not only faster, but also more reliable and future-proof for generations to come," she said.
A report by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) commissioned by Openreach in 2019, showed connecting everyone in the East of England to full fibre broadband by 2025 would provide a £5.4bn boost to the region's economy.
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The report also revealed that 45,000 people in the region could be brought back into the workforce through enhanced connectivity, including small businesses and entrepreneurs - as well as allowing thousands more people to work remotely.
Openreach chief executive Clive Selley said: "Our full fibre build program is going great guns - having passed over 2m premises already on the way to our 4m target by March 2021.
"We're now building at around 26,000 premises a week in over 100 locations - reaching a new home or business every 23 seconds That's up from 13,000 premises a week this time last year."
He added: "Our ambition is to reach 15m premises by mid-2020s if right investment conditions are in place. Currently, the biggest missing piece of this puzzle is getting an exemption from business rates on building fibre cables which is critical for any fibre builder's long-term investment case."