Suffolk: County rallying for better broadband bid

THE END is in sight for Suffolk’s campaign for better broadband – but it still needs a final push.

More than 7,300 households and businesses have already joined the campaign for superfast connections across the county.

An online survey has already drawn responses from 5,972 individual households and 1,339 local businesses since its launch in January – proof of the desperate need for better broadband in the county.

Today, a major conference is being held at The Apex, in Bury St Edmunds, to demonstrate the need and demand for faster connection speeds.

Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee, chairman of the Better Broadband for Suffolk campaign, said: “Today’s conference is another important part of demonstrating the genuine desire and pressing need for better broadband that exists across Suffolk.

“We’ve spoken to thousands of people around the county, an overwhelming majority of which have pledged their firm backing for what we’re trying to achieve.

“We’re now entering the home straight for the survey so if people haven’t signed up yet, now’s the time.

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“We absolutely must demonstrate to ministers and potential suppliers that Suffolk is serious about superfast broadband.”

The conference will include high-profile speakers and a demonstration from Ipswich’s Copleston High School students on how they use broadband to further their education.

The school, which recently became an academy, uses IT in many of its lessons and relies heavily on fast broadband for its Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) through its website.

The year seven students will give an interactive presentation to the business leaders, councillors and guests at the event.

Head of year Craig Macartney said the pupils used the internet for a huge variety of purposes and were looking forward to the chance to show off their know-how.

He said: “They will be looking to illustrate how easy it is to do extended learning tasks and homework online. They can access a lot more sources at home now.

“It would be good for the local community and businesses for these 11 and 12-year-olds to show their skills.”

He said students could work more flexibly both in school and at home and could edit images and video, use online sources for a range of research purposes and take those skills into their later work life.

Connection speeds in Suffolk vary hugely, from a swift 100 megabits per second potential from Virgin Media’s extensive fibre-optic network in most of Ipswich and parts of Felixstowe, to a sluggish 5Mbps average elsewhere.

With some rural areas enduring speeds as low as 0.5Mbps, the campaigners are hoping at least 10,000 people will register an interest in the Better Broadband crusade, supported by Suffolk County Council, the EADT, local MPs and residents.

The conference also marks the start of a month-long public consultation giving people the opportunity to comment on how �21million of public money is being invested in the programme.