EEDA hails broadband completion

VIRTUALLY every business and resident in the east of England now has access to broadband, thanks to a four-year drive to get it rolled out across the region.

VIRTUALLY every business and resident in the east of England now has access to broadband, thanks to a four-year drive to get it rolled out across the region.

The East of England Development Agency says that following its Demand Broadband campaign, launched in 2002 when just over half the region had access, 99.7% now have access to the high speed technology.

This week, the last of the region's 583 BT telephone exchanges were upgraded to provide broadband services, as its 10 last rural sites were enabled.

EEDA says the successful roll-out to communities across the region has in part been driven by its campaign, which began when just 53% had access.

It resulted in more than 17,000 people registering on the Demand Broadband website, which helped persuade BT and other telecoms providers that there was a strong market for it in the region's market towns and rural areas.

EEDA's Connecting Communities Competition, run in conjunction with the campaign, was also aimed at bringing communities together to find their own broadband services when others were not interested in providing the service.

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“When EEDA launched its Demand Broadband campaign, many rural villages and towns were struggling to persuade providers to bring broadband services to their communities,” said EEDA board member John Snyder.

“Thanks to the campaign, we have been able to help these communities prove there is the demand for the service and get providers to enable the local exchanges and establish new broadband networks.

“The fact that 99.7% of the region can now access broadband is a fantastic achievement. However, we are continuing to work with our partners to ensure those who still haven't got access will get it in the near future through initiatives that utilise alternative technologies, such as wireless networks.”

BT regional director Peter McCarthy-Ward said that every BT exchange in the region was now upgraded with the latest high-speed broadband capability.

“We've reached this milestone through a combination of BT investment and partnership working with EEDA. This shared approach has ensured even the smallest and most rural of communities have access to broadband services as the biggest towns and cities in the region,” he said.

Broadband was brought to the last two communities in the region this summer - Willingale near Chelmsford and Lucy Lane, Colchester.

Prickwillow in Cambridgeshire is receiving broadband services from Edge Telecom, which won the contract for upgrading BT's local exchange.

Sally Brazier, who runs her business advisory service firm, CEOSTRA, from Willingale, said the arrival of broadband would make a big different to her life and her business.

“It's a time saving and a cost saving. At the moment, we have two ISDN lines, and prior to that, we had a split telephone line, which meant when we did anything online it was extremely slow,” she said.

“I work with designers a lot and they often can't send me large business files because they are too large to download.

“Doing research on the web is also an extremely long and tedious process. Having broadband will mean I can support a better quality service for my clients whilst saving myself time and money.”