Work on Suffolk Coastal broadband ‘not-spots’ moves step closer with provider bids this summer
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Contracts for tackling broadband ‘not-spots’ in coastal Suffolk are set to be awarded this summer, with all work set for completion in 2020.
The Suffolk Better Broadband Programme aimed to provide 100% broadband coverage across the county.
However, Suffolk Coastal District Council leader Ray Herring said that while it had been acknowledged there were likely to be 2-3% of homes across the county without reasonable access by 2020 when the programme ends, that number is expected to be greater than 3% in Suffolk Coastal because of the large rural population.
Last summer a Suffolk Coastal Enabling Broadband Programme Board was established to directly support those communities with low broadband provision and ‘not-spots’.
On Tuesday night, the council’s cabinet agreed to progress the scheme and allocate £250,000 to the project.
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It means that tenders for providers on the first areas will go out in June or July.
Mr Herring said: “In rural areas, like Suffolk Coastal, the percentage without access is expected to be much greater.
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“We believe that access to high speed broadband services [10 megabits per second] is vital for economic growth and the development of strong local economies.
“As part of our Enabling Communities agenda, Suffolk Coastal has decided to step in to help plug this gap and ensure all our communities have access to an affordable high speed broadband service.
“At Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, we made a clear commitment to invest in ensuring that all businesses, residents and visitors to Suffolk Coastal get good access to superfast broadband.
“We hope to issue the contracts in June, to have the work completed during 2020.”
The selection criteria for providers which bid for the contracts is currently being put together.
The cabinet report said that efforts will be made to address broadband availability issues across the wider east Suffolk area, subject to additional cash being in place to do so.
Better broadband has been a specific aim in the council’s east Suffolk business plan, and is considered a key factor in allowing rural businesses to develop digital services.