Businesses demand access to broadband

A POWERFUL group of prominent leaders from Suffolk’s business community told newly-elected local MPs that Suffolk’s demands for high-speed broadband across the county must be taken to Westminster.

Members of the Suffolk Business Forum met at Adastral Park at Martlesham, near Ipswich, yesterday to call for better, faster coverage to prevent rural firms being left behind in the internet revolution.

The forum includes representatives from Choose Suffolk, the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, the National Farmers Union, the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, the Country Land & Business Association and Haven Gateway Partnership, met with new Members of Parliament, Therese Coffey, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney and Dr Daniel Poulter, Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich along with the meeting hosts, BT.

The Members of Parliament were told of the challenges Suffolk faced, with an inability to access the internet at acceptable speeds in many locations as well as limited commitment to Superfast Broadband deployment, and the effect this was having on economic development in the county.

Delegates took part in a round-table discussion where they shared the experiences of some rural businesses struggling with access, reliability and speed of connection to the internet and heard the arguments to ensure that Suffolk gains comprehensive next generation broadband services.

Andy Wood, chairman of Choose Suffolk and chief executive of Adnams, said: “This has been an important meeting, bringing together many business organisations to speak in a single voice to the county’s elected Members of Parliament saying that, as a largely rural area, Suffolk is a county which suffers from a significant challenge to its economic and social progress due to poor, or sometimes no broadband availability, particularly in rural Suffolk.”

While business leaders welcomed the news that Ed Vaizey has been appointed as the UK’s new minister for broadband, they called for prompt action to deliver fast and reliable broadband services to bridge the growing digital divide between urban and largely rural areas.

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Nicola Currie, regional director for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) for the eastern region, said: “Only the Highlands of Scotland and central Wales have worse availability of broadband than Suffolk. Without useable broadband, rural areas will continue to struggle.”

In a statement echoed by Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, Daniel Poulter, said: “Fighting for higher speed broadband and improving broadband availability throughout Suffolk is one of my top priorities as a newly elected MP. Improved Broadband is essential for Suffolk businesses, schools and families. I look forward to working with my fellow Suffolk MPs to make the needs of Suffolk people and businesses heard on this key issue.”