Rural Suffolk has to get itself connected to the 21st century

Mark Bee at a broadband box, watched by Bill Murphy of BT and Waveney MP Peter Aldous.

Mark Bee at a broadband box, watched by Bill Murphy of BT and Waveney MP Peter Aldous. - Credit: Archant

When we moved to Ipswich from rural Suffolk nearly 30 years ago, we thought this would be for the next 20 or so years – that eventually we’d like to move back to the countryside or a market town.

Rural Suffolk has to get itself connected to the 21st century.

The more I see and hear about country life, the less likely I think it is that we will ever move out of town.

The simple fact is that communications, once you get outside Ipswich, are so primitive – and despite some really good work from the county council are unlikely to match those in town.

My main gripe is about electronic communications, but physical links in the rural areas aren’t as good as they should be.

I can’t imagine living anywhere that does not have a good broadband connection and strong wifi – or somewhere without a mobile phone signal for friends who may visit.

Don’t get me wrong. I love rural Suffolk. I regularly visit friends and family near the coast and I’ve spent many happy hours at Minsmere bird reserve.

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But until recently, when I switched from Vodafone to Virgin, I’d been unable to get a mobile phone signal when visiting that part of the county.

I’ve heard some people say it’s nice to be able to get away from it all and not have a mobile signal. That is rubbish. If you don’t want to get calls on your mobile, switch it off. Or if you don’t trust yourself then leave it at home.

Having no mobile signal should be a choice for the individual, not the result of a mobile phone company’s inability to provide an adequate service.

I’m delighted to see that Mark Bee is going to put the county council’s weight behind efforts to improve coverage. What must visitors to places like Aldeburgh and Orford think if they can’t get a phone signal?

The broadband revolution is continuing with another £10 million in the pipeline, but isn’t there still a lack of ambition? In Ipswich cable broadband gives homes speeds of up to 150Mbps.

In other communities this kind of speed is a complete pipedream – and once it’s been degraded by home wifi networks it becomes much less useable.

The other communications issue that affects rural issues is public transport. Rail services have improved over recent years for market towns like Woodbridge, Saxmundham, Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds.

But bus services – especially at weekends and evenings – have left other places seriously isolated for those who are not able to drive. And county council cuts have helped emphasise this problem.

This has all helped create the impression that rural Suffolk is a wonderful place to visit – but the kind of place that many people (myself included) would not want to live in!

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