Sun, sea, sand and great download speeds – Wells-next-the-Sea takes Better Broadband for Norfolk programme past 150,000 properties milestone
With its long coastline, beautiful countryside and dry climate, Norfolk is a great place to be in the summer months. And this year it has got even better, with high-speed broadband available much more widely than ever before.
Representatives from Norfolk County Council and BT were joined by local dignitaries and businesspeople at Wells-next-the-Sea on the north Norfolk coast today (Tuesday, 16 June) to mark passing the milestone of 150,000 homes and businesses that can now access high-speed internet services as a result of their Better Broadband for Norfolk (BBfN) programme.
Wells is one of the latest areas of Norfolk to benefit from BBfN, which aims to ensure more than 80 per cent of Norfolk’s premises can receive a superfast broadband service (24 megabits per second and above) by the end of this year. Within recent weeks, three roadside fibre cabinets have been ‘switched on’ in the town, making the new fibre network available to around 1,000 properties.
As a traditional seaside destination that attracts tens of thousands of visitors and holidaymakers every year, Wells-next-the-Sea has a thriving tourism and service industry. With high-speed broadband now available in parts of the town, including in a central area along the quay, many of the town’s businesses can now buy a faster service from internet service providers that will make it easier to market themselves online, carry out administrative tasks and offer Wi-Fi to their customers. See ‘notes to editors’ below for a local business case study.
Dr Marie Strong is the County Councillor for Wells-next-the-Sea as well as Chair of the Broadband Working Group and member on the Better Broadband for Norfolk Steering Group. She said: “Our traditional port and seaside town can now boast 21st century broadband speeds among its many assets. Many homes and businesses in Wells can now receive high-speed broadband and this will make a big difference to the town, to its businesses, its many visitors but also to its children and young people with all the learning opportunities reliable internet access at home brings. A good broadband service also makes it easier to use online services – including health and emergency services. It will also be so much easier to keep in touch with friends and relatives. This is good news for residents and visitors of all ages as well as the wide range of businesses.
“Making better broadband available across Norfolk has been an absolute priority for the County Council – we know how important it is to people and for the future of our county. Just under two years since we connected the first premises we are now celebrating 150,000 homes and businesses that can buy a faster broadband service. I am very proud of what we have been able to achieve in this time and the difference it has already made, and I am looking forward to getting more areas of Norfolk connected in the coming months.”
Bill Murphy, BT Managing Director for Next Generation Access, said: “The Better Broadband for Norfolk programme has made fantastic progress, bringing high-speed fibre broadband to some of the most challenging areas in the county. The programme shows the power of the public and private sectors working together.
“This exciting technology is providing a major boost for local households and businesses in Norfolk, whether they are using it to work more efficiently and find new customers or for online learning and leisure.”
The BBfN programme is a partnership between Norfolk County Council and BT, supported by funding from central Government, designed to bring faster broadband to parts of Norfolk, some of which could not even receive a basic two megabits per second service. Of all the broadband projects awarded under the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK contract framework in England, the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme has achieved the most progress, making high-speed broadband speeds available to more homes and businesses than in any other area to date.
The majority of the 150,000 homes and businesses that have access to the new fibre broadband network are in rural parts of Norfolk, with parts of market towns and villages across the county now able to receive a better internet service, and more roadside fibre cabinets being installed and ‘switched on’ each month.
The original BBfN contract was signed in December 2012 after the council pledged £15 million to the scheme. This was matched by central Government as it became one of the first local authorities in the UK to be successful in bidding for Broadband Delivery UK funding under the framework contract. In addition to covering the ongoing costs of supporting and maintaining the network, BT made a £11 million contribution towards the cost of installing the fibre infrastructure.
A £12 million deal to extend the BBfN programme was signed by Norfolk County Council and BT earlier this year, funded by central Government, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, Norfolk County Council and BT. Once installation work on both the first and second contracts is completed, it is expected that coverage of fibre broadband will reach 90 per cent of Norfolk premises when the private sector’s commercial roll-out of the technology is also included.
And even more investment is planned. In addition to the latest £12 million deal, another £6.9 million has been committed to help Norfolk contribute to the Government’s national target of making high-speed broadband available to 95 per cent of UK homes and businesses by the end of 2017. Half of the £6.9 million has been pledged by five of Norfolk’s district councils – Breckland, Broadland, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, North Norfolk and South Norfolk – and the remainder from central government.
The high-speed network installed by BT’s local network business, Openreach, as a result of the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme is available on an open, wholesale basis to all communication providers, therefore offering Norfolk households and businesses the benefit of real choice from a highly competitive market.
Each roadside fibre broadband cabinet serves homes and businesses in a very localised area such as part of a village or town. As faster services become available, people will be able to check whether their home or business can receive them via the Better Broadband for Norfolk website.
Notes to editors
Wells-next-the-Sea business case study
The Wells Maltings Trust opened the Sackhouse last year, with seven business units designed for small businesses and start-up companies, as well as community space in the heart of the town. All the office spaces are now occupied and the tenants include a local builder, a financial advisor, social care and maritime services providers, marketing and social media companies, and a local housing charity.
The Sackhouse can now receive superfast broadband speeds thanks to the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme.
Becky Jefcoate, Project Development Manager at the Wells Malting Trust, said: “High speed broadband will enable our current and future business customers to carry out work with their clients locally, nationally and internationally, with improved broadband speeds helping with download times, Skype, online phone calls, conferencing and trading. High speed broadband will also help provide state-of-the-art digital technology to phase 2 of the Wells Maltings Project and its exciting plans for the conversion of the former Maltings building into North Norfolk’s premier arts and heritage destination.”