Lack of broadband could mean lost jobs

THE lack of a high-speed internet link for businesses and homes in a north Suffolk town could result in job losses in the area according to campaigners.

THE lack of a high-speed internet link for businesses and homes in a north Suffolk town could result in job losses in the area according to campaigners.

Business leaders in the Halesworth area are becoming increasingly frustrated at not having a broadband link installed at the town's telephone exchange.

BT are actively encouraging communities to press for a broadband link but require a certain amount of interest before they will go to the expense of upgrading exchanges.

Philip Reeve, chairman of Halesworth Business Connections, said: "Here in Halesworth we have a business community of international and national companies as well as a growing number of local firms.

"Nearly all of these rely on internet connections and these are becoming ever more vital."

Mr Reeve added: "There is no doubt that companies looking to expand in the future will look at a whole range of issues including broadband connections. "If we do not have a high-speed link in Halesworth it could mean that jobs are lost."

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The town lost out to have broadband installed as part of a project organised by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and has seen other communities further down the road to getting broadband connected.

Beccles is due to have broadband installed next month and Harleston were the winners of the EEDA broadband project.

Bungay is actively campaigning for a broadband connection and has been set a "trigger" target of 500 interested customers by BT.

"We have enquiries not just from businesses but also from private members of the public who would like to see broadband introduced at Halesworth.

"The problem is we do not know how many people have to declare an interest in order for BT to upgrade the local exchange," said Mr Reeve.

Halesworth has three centres where members of the public can get internet access, the WEA centre at Steeple End, the public library in Bridge Street and the Internet Café at Warners Wine Bar in the Thoroughfare.

Lee Harper, a tutor at the internet café, said better internet connections would help all members of the community.

"A local broadband connection would benefit everyone as well as businesses in the area," he said.

When Halesworth residents contact the BT broadband website and tap in their telephone number they are informed that the high speed internet service is not available.

"It is unlikely there will be enough demand to cover the cost of upgrading your exchange, but we will continue to monitor the number of people registering their interest in broadband ADSL in this area," is the message they receive.

A BT spokeswoman said: "We now have 90% of the UK population either able to receive broadband or having a target set for the service to be introduced.

"Our efforts are now to help the remaining 10% of areas, including Halesworth, and it is well worth residents continuing to register an interest as we are constantly monitoring the situation," she said.

The average cost of upgrading an exchange is £250,000 but costs can be as high as £800,000.

The trigger targets set by BT take into account various factors including the area's population and the cost of upgrading the exchange.

BT is also looking at ways new technology can help businesses get a high-speed internet connection in areas where the local exchange has not been upgraded.