Suffolk: County council leader Mark Bee to hold BT’s ‘feet to the fire’ over broadband coverage

Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council

Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council - Credit: Archant

Communities in Suffolk which could struggle to get adequate broadband speeds by 2015 are to join forces to fight for the service.

David Ruffley MP for Bury St Edmunds and Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee have both agreed that pressure needs to be put on BT to improve its services.

They were speaking at a public meeting in Battisford, near Needham Market, where it was revealed by the council’s

Suffolk Better Broadband programme director, Peter Ingram, that at least 20 areas in the county are facing slow speeds for years to come.

The council is aiming to get at least 85% of households access to fibre-optic broadband by 2015.

But it is only responsible for improving speeds to around a third of properties with BT in charge of about 200,000.

Mr Bee said: “I am sure Battisford will be part of the meeting. We will continue to hold BT’s feet to the fire.

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“We need to find out the scope of the problem. It’s about finding out how many areas are in a similar position.

“I do not want to let BT off the hook. We are going to try and get them to do the work.”

About 50 homeowners attended the heated two-and-a-half hour meeting and questioned Mr Bee and Mr Ingram on the internet speeds they receive.

But BT, who are responsible for the majority of homes in the village, has said its broadband cabinet lies too far away for homeowners to get a good service.

Mr Ingram said the 20 areas were places which are near the edge of the boundaries BT is responsible to cover.

Little Finborough, Haughley Green and Combs were all mentioned in the meeting as areas which could struggle to receive faster speeds.

Speaking at the meeting Mr Ruffley said he would campaign at ministerial level and contact BT’s chief executive.

He said: “You have managed to suppress your legitimate and justifiable anger. I have had comments from people for many months along the lines that this is a digital apartheid.

“All Suffolk MPs have a village like Battisford - there are not many of you - but it’s a Suffolk-wide problem and we are determined to solve that problem.

“BT is a moving target, they are a commercial company, they are not a charity. If they will slide and cut corners they will.”

In the meeting it was revealed that £250million of new Government money to improve broadband speeds would be available.

Mr Bee said he would arrange the meeting for November as if a council bid was sent it may need to be received by the end of the year.

No-one from BT attended the meeting but last night a spokesman said: “Nobody has done more than BT to bring faster broadband across the county.

“We will honour our commitment to meet with them again to update the programme and understand and take on further any such issues.

“We are committed to continuing works to expand the deployment as widely as possible in Suffolk.

“We will stay in close contact with all concerned parties.”

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