Battle launched over broadband access

PEOPLE across East Anglia are being urged to join the battle to stamp out broadband “notspots” that are frustrating rural users and crippling local businesses.

PEOPLE across East Anglia are being urged to join the battle to stamp out broadband “notspots” that are frustrating rural users and crippling local businesses.

In parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire there is growing anger that many people cannot run businesses, access information or keep in contact with friends over the web because they live in areas where broadband service is poor or not available.

Now the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is asking people across the region to “tell us your horror stories”.

It wants to gather evidence of “notspot” areas with broadband problems for its campaign for better broadband coverage.

This comes as a survey suggested that three million UK homes, including rural and some suburban areas, have insufficient broadband speeds of less than two megabits per second (2Mbps).

Other organisations have pledged their support for better broadband with one chief executive saying if the situation does not improve the area could be “left in the technological slow lane” .

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Norfolk CLA chairman Chris Allhusen said: “The broadband situation is unacceptable. The CLA is very concerned that the rural economy and people living in a rural environment are being disadvantaged. We want to know what ministers and BT are going to do about it.

“At both the Suffolk Show and the Royal Norfolk Show we want people to tell us about their broadband problems. We will use the information to continue to lobby the government and BT.”

The government has promised to provide all UK homes with broadband speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2012, a speed which should usually enable people to download attachments, use iPlayer and access sites like Facebook.

BT has said 99pc of the country currently has access to broadband, although it admits this is not necessarily at a speed of 2Mbps.

The CLA said is has been contacted by many people having problems - including in Tittleshall, Houghton, Stowbridge, Clenchwarton and Happisburgh.

The EDP previously reported how BT said it was currently unable to improve broadband in the area serving Potters Leisure Resort at Hopton despite company chairman Brian Potter warning that slow internet connections were jeopardising the future of major sporting events at the resort.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of Shaping Norfolk's Future, said: “Businesses across Norfolk will require fast broadband to remain competitive with other parts of the country and without this Norfolk's geographic isolation will be compounded by the county also being in the technological slow lane. We are going to have a meeting with BT and we are talking to businesses about how they are affected.”

John Leigh, head of ICT at Norfolk County Council's children's services, said e-learning is a major part of the school curriculum and the county had been awarded �3,167,882 to improve crucial broadband connections to schools.

A BT spokesman said the company had put a multimillion-pound investment into upgrading exchanges to provide broadband across the region.

He added: “We are committed to providing everyone who wants broadband with the service. We have blanket-covered the UK with ADSL broadband across our copper network. We are aware of a very small number of customers attached to exchanges who experience slower speeds or perhaps cannot access broadband over their telephone line at all. We continue to trial new technologies.”