Plans to explore ultrafast fibre in Lowestoft move forward
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Plans to explore extending an ultrafast fibre network to homes in Lowestoft have been given the backing of senior leaders.
East Suffolk Council's cabinet agreed to do more work assessing an extension of the Suffolk Cloud project - a county council run scheme to install ultrafast broadband in 10 towns.
That project will roll out a fibre network for public sector organisations - including in Lowestoft, Woodbridge and Felixstowe - but an extension to the scheme would include homes and businesses too.
Stephen Burroughes, cabinet member for customer services and operational partnerships, described it as a "digital revolution" for the town.
"It is well acknowledged that Lowestoft's geographical remoteness and lack of good transport connections has hampered its economic growth and regeneration in recent decades," he said.
"By supporting and enabling the installation of ultrafast broadband throughout the town we can create a step change in its digital capability and as a result it will become a far more attractive area for inward investment, existing businesses, tourists and residents."
If the exploratory work proves successful, it is understood work could get underway in October, and is expected to take around two years to complete.
Current estimates suggest that 94% of the county has access to superfast broadband as part of the county council's Better Broadband for Suffolk project, with the current contract with Openreach requiring that number to be 98% by 2020.
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The Suffolk Cloud scheme is being rolled out by MLL and CityFibre, with both firms having indicated that it can be rolled out to homes if identified early enough and finance was in place.
The cabinet meeting heard that if it went ahead it could unlock between £15million and £20m of economic growth.
The existing Suffolk Cloud programme has secured £200,000 from business rates cash, as well as an additional £500,000 from the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders.
If the plan is pursued to extend it in Lowestoft, it is understood a further £1.2m will need to be tabled which the cabinet report said would come from East Suffolk Council's new homes bonus reserve.
Councillor David Ritchie, cabinet member for planning, said: "It's one of many big schemes in Lowestoft - the third crossing, flood relief, First Light festival - Lowestoft is a coming place, everything is happening and it's great."