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Boost for better broadband in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 10:14 04 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:04 03 July 2010

THE campaign for Norfolk to get better broadband coverage was given added weight yesterday when a government advisory report revealed that nearly three-quarters of consumers regard it as an essential utility.

THE campaign for Norfolk to get better broadband coverage was given added weight yesterday when a government advisory report revealed that nearly three-quarters of consumers regard it as an essential utility.

New research from the Communications Consumer Panel (CCP) has found that 73pc of those with broadband consider it as important as electricity or water.

The report, Not Online, Not Included, is a key piece of research that is set to inform the content of final draft of the government's Digital Britain report.

Anna Bradley, chairman of the CCP, said: “The tipping point will be when broadband does not just provide an advantage to people who have it, but disadvantages people who do not.”

The findings back calls from Norfolk MPs and civic leaders to stamp out not-spots - areas where there is no broadband coverage.

Campaigners said that such pockets, mainly in rural areas, cripple businesses and disadvantage users.

MPs are due to meet with BT, the largest provider in the county and in many rural areas the only broadband possibility, later this month to demand answers on why businesses and residents are being left stranded in the slow lane.

Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, called the meeting to take place after the publication of Lord Carter's report on the digital economy.

He said the 73pc figure quoted in the CCP report was only set to go up.

“The issue is not going to go away,” he said, “it is only going to get more important and the responsibility is on operators to provide access which will become as vital to the economy as telephone networks and road infrastructures.”

Norfolk County Council and the Country Land and Business Association have added their voices to the calls for a better service.

Becky and Nigel Graham moved to Wood Dalling, near Aylsham, because the house they bought had the BT broadband connection necessary to run Mr Graham's recruitment consultancy Montrose Kelly.

But a year after they moved the connection stopped dead and the couple were told by BT that they were too far from the exchange and that the substandard line would cost too much to repair.

Another reader, referring to a survey that cited a broadband speed of less than two megabits per second (2Mbps) as insufficient, said his speed was only 0.135Mbps.

A BT spokesman said the Grahams' case would be investigated.

He added: “We estimate that more than 99pc of homes and businesses in Norfolk could receive broadband if they wished.

“We are working to find solutions for the relatively small number of customers who are currently unable to access broadband for technical reasons.”

“We have made - and continue to make - a major, multimillion-pound investment in our network in Norfolk.”

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