Call to back broadband funding bid

A rallying cry has been issued to the business community to help secure millions of pounds in funding to bring the next generation of broadband to this area.

The Times' sister paper the EDP and Norfolk County Council this week launched their joint Broadband: Back the Bid campaign which calls on employers and entrepreneurs to tell the government how a superfast internet connection could transform their company.

Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, the county council, in conjunction with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Shaping Norfolk's Future, needs to gather a mountain of hard-hitting evidence which will show the economic benefits of bringing the latest broadband technology to Norfolk.

On April 15, those testimonials will be hand-delivered to the government as part of a multi-million-pound bid to Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).

While Dereham may be in a good position, with BT set to upgrade its exchange to super-fast fibre broadband by the end of 2012, a 'not spots' map created by the county council shows many other parts of Breckland and north Norfolk struggle with slow, or even non-existent, speeds.

James Ellis, a member of Norfolk Tourism and marketing director of Reepham-based Norfolk Country Cottages, said the internet was 'critical' for rural businesses, particularly those in the tourism sector.

Without improvements to the infrastructure, he fears growth will be stunted and companies will be forced to move to urban areas. He said: 'That will inevitably mean you end up with greater rural poverty.'

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Wells county councillor Marie Strong urged people to support the Broadband: Back the Bid campaign. She said: 'Naturally I have a particular interest in getting second generation broadband into the rural areas where it will be increasingly vital for sustaining small business, for learning, for connection with family members, access to health information and assistance.

'Residents in my division have responded time and time again to my request that they sign up for broadband projects. Please sign up again – we must keep up the pressure.'

The cost of bringing speeds of at least 2 megabits per second, and up to 40 Mbps, to the whole of Norfolk is expected to be between �70m and �80m. A successful bid to BDUK - which has a total of �530m to award – could fund at least �10m of that.

We need to hear from business managers and owners to find out how their companies are hindered by sluggish speeds and would benefit from better broadband.

To show your support, visit or www.fakenhamandwellstimes, and download the Broadband: Back the Bid testimonial form.

Send the completed form, by April 8, to Sandra Mackay, EDP Editorial, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.