England

Norfolk and Suffolk broadband deals worth £71m signed

Contracts worth £71m have been signed with BT to improve broadband coverage across Norfolk and Suffolk.

Deals worth £41m in Norfolk and £30m in Suffolk have been signed with the respective county councils.

The deals should mean both counties will have faster connections to more than 80% of homes and rural businesses.

Communications minister Ed Vaizey said: "We're aiming for the UK to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015."

Superfast broadband is considered to be speeds in excess of 24Mbps.

Norfolk County Council said its deal would provide "superfast" speeds to 83% of the county's homes and businesses by June 2015.

Improvements to the network would also mean that many homes with poor or no broadband will have access to a system operating at speeds at or above 2Mbps.

Firms become competitive

BT is investing £11m of the £41m in fibre optic infrastructure to make the higher speeds possible.

George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, said: "Broadband has the potential to unlock a revival of Norfolk's local rural economy, creating vibrant villages and thriving towns by making it possible to start and run a connected business from rural locations.

"But Norfolk's many small businesses, and our economic potential, is being held back by slow, and in many cases, non-existent broadband.

"Now we must move fast to make sure that fast broadband is rolled out to the most rural areas and 'not spots' as fast as possible, to stop rural areas being left behind."

Faster broadband will also be extended to cover 85% of Suffolk households and businesses also by 2015.

Suffolk County Council said work on its £30m project would begin before the end of the year.

Chris Soule, chair of the Federation of Small Businesses in Suffolk, said: "Our members have been very clear that they see business potential in the roll-out of superfast broadband.

"It allows owners of smaller companies to be more competitive and this coupled with their entrepreneurial flair has the potential for new employment.

"Our task now is to continue to work with local authorities and to apply pressure to ensure that the remaining 15% of the county does not get disadvantaged."

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