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Minister to lobby over broadband

PUBLISHED: 12:03 17 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:21 03 July 2010

A SENIOR government minister pledged last night to do his best to make sure that top sporting events stay at one of Norfolk's premier holiday resorts.

Hilary Benn, secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, said that he would lobby the chief executive of BT to ensure that broadband access is improved at Potters Leisure Resort at Hopton, near Yarmouth.

A SENIOR government minister pledged last night to do his best to make sure that top sporting events stay at one of Norfolk's premier holiday resorts.

Hilary Benn, secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, said that he would lobby the chief executive of BT to ensure that broadband access is improved at Potters Leisure Resort at Hopton, near Yarmouth.

The pledge was issued after the resort's owner Brian Potter feared that the slow internet connection speed would lead to his resort getting the red card from the annual World Indoors Bowls Championship and Premier League Snooker.

Mr Benn visited Potters yesterday to see how the resort is being hampered by BT's lack of modernising the nearby Blundeston telephone exchange.

Without the broadband upgrade, Potters may not be able to provide live internet broadcasts of bowls and other sports - one of the main demands of event organisers.

After touring Potters and discussing the lack of high speed broadband, Mr Benn said: “I am going to raise the specific problems with the chief executive of BT.

“High speed broadband is really important for rural communities in the 21st century - rather like the roads in the 20th century, railways in the 19th century and canals in the 18th century.

“It really does matter that we try and address the problems Potters and other rural communities may have with accessing high speed broadband.”

Mr Benn arranged his visit after he read a story in the Mercury's sister publication the Eastern Daily Press in January in which Mr Potter issued a plea for BT to improve the Blundeston exchange to help surrounding rural communities enter the 21st century.

Potters only has an upload speed of half a megabyte and BT has said it could put in a special cable from Norwich to ensure the site gets high speed connection - but at three times the normal billing cost and by signing a five year contract.

In January Mr Potter said “I am sure that this issue is not one faced by Potters alone and it is simply not acceptable.

“BT's decision to ignore smaller rural exchanges, such as Blundeston, is likely to have an extremely damaging medium and longer term effect on rural enterprise and the economies such as Norfolk.”

Mr Potter was unable to show Mr Benn around his resort yesterday as he was on a skiing holiday so the minister was shown around instead by Marc Jones, head of marketing.

Mr Jones said: “The meeting went really well and we were all extremely impressed by the interest Mr Benn showed not only in our broadbrand issue but the broader rural picture as well.”

BT said that 99pc of Norfolk's homes and businesses had access to broadband and that it is committed to a multimillion pound modernisation of all of region's telephone exchanges.

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