Suffolk: County must be part of “Fastest Broadand” – Bee

ALL parts of Suffolk should be part of the government’s vision of having the best broadband coverage among major European countries.

That was the verdict from county council leader Mark Bee after attending a technology conference headed by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Hunt was speaking at a conference at the Google Campus in east London and said technology companies should use the example of the Olympics to redouble their efforts to improve broadband coverage.

He said the government was backing plans to install fibre-optic cables to cabinets, with the final length being over traditional phone lines, as a medium-term solution.

“The reason we are backing fibre to the cabinet as a potential medium-term solution is simple: the increase in speeds that it allows – 80 Mbps certainly but in certain cases up to 1 gigabit – will comfortably create Europe’s biggest and most profitable high speed broadband market.

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“And in doing so we will create the conditions whereby if fibre to the home is still the best way to get the very highest speeds, private sector companies will invest to provide it.”

Mr Bee said there were no specific new commitments of finance from the government – but it was clear new money would emerge early in the autumn once ministers had returned from holidays.

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He said: “We need to look at solutions to getting broadband to the last 10% of the population – but we also need to look at getting better speeds to quite large communities that struggle to get good coverage.

“While broadband is vital for business, it is also important in home – for the way people live today.”

The county is due to choose which operator it will enter into a partnership with to extend broadband coverage at a special meeting at the end of September.

The county council has led the campaign to get broadband extended, and Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter – whose constituency straddles both sides of the “digital divide” said it was benefiting from a strong campaign.

He said: “Although Suffolk was not in the first wave of broadband bids, its delivery plan is one of the best in the country and is now right up there expected to be one of the first to get work underway – Mark Bee and his administration at the council deserve a great deal of credit for that.”

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