Why broadband will be key for East's Covid fightback

County Broadband workers installing full-fibre broadband networks in East Anglia

County Broadband has backed the Fightback East campaign - Credit: Gregg Brown

Reliable broadband should be seen as a fundamental human right according to a network builder which has put its weight behind a major campaign to revive the East's economy.

Fightback East - launched by this newspaper - is aimed at lobbying government to do much more to support the region. It includes a range of manifesto demands to kickstart a post-Covid recovery across the eastern counties.

Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband - which is building full-fibre networks across Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire - welcomed the campaign's call for full-fibre broadband for all.

The company has made strenuous efforts to bring hyper-fast broadband to the counties' remote and out-of-the-way rural towns and villages, said Mr Felton. But he admitted the wind was taken out of its sails when the government downgraded its broadband ambition. 

“Lockdown 3 is once again exposing critical problems with our outdated digital infrastructure with businesses struggling to work from home and children unable to access online learning," he said. 

"Broadband has long been our essential fourth utility and reliable connectivity should be viewed as a fundamental human right in 2021.

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“The path to full-fibre has its challenges and to succeed will require a Herculean effort with local providers and the government working closely together.

"We were disappointed, if not surprised by the government’s recent announcement that its flagship 100% coverage Gigabit target was downgraded to 85% of UK homes by 2025."

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Copper-based networks were a "sticking-plaster solution" and should be consigned to history, he argued.

“Bullet-proof connectivity will be the foundation of the Covid-19 economic recovery as the nation works to ‘build back better’," he said. 

"It will stimulate innovation, productivity and the growth of exciting new industries and will help pump millions into the local economy."

The company had  worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to build and connect homes and businesses across East Anglia to its new hyperfast full-fibre networks, backed by millions of pounds of private investment from Aviva Investors, said Mr Felton.

The firm was also nurturing talent in the region to ensure that there were enough engineers and IT professionals to keep up the momentum, he added.

“We welcome full-fibre broadband being a key part of the manifesto and our message to residents and businesses blighted by poor broadband in rural areas of Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire – stay tuned as next-generation broadband is on its way to uplift your lives during the pandemic and beyond.”

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