Multimillion pound bid to further improve county’s broadband to be discussed by councillors
06 October 2017
Norfolk county councillors will be asked next Thursday (12 October) to approve the development of a bid which, if successful, would see significant additional fibre optic broadband cabling installed in the county.
The County Council has already submitted an expression of interest in the Government’s Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme, which is seeking to encourage further and faster deployment of full fibre broadband networks across the UK.
Now the recently established Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee is being asked to support a bid that could give Norfolk businesses the possibility to access funding to improve their broadband speeds up to one Gigabit speeds (1000 Megabits per second) and establish ‘digital hubs’ across the county to support residents and businesses, among other things.
Tom Garrod, Chairman of the Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee, said: “We’re determined to seize every opportunity to improve digital connectivity in Norfolk. Between the ongoing success of our Better Broadband for Norfolk programme and the clear priority we’re placing on strengthening Norfolk’s digital connections following the local elections in May, I think we’re in an excellent position to win money from the LLFN programme.
“The projects being proposed have the potential to make a big difference and address some of the challenges we know people living, working and running businesses in Norfolk are facing. We know the Government also has plans to make funding available to roll out 5G mobile data connectivity, which is dependent on full fibre networks, and I’m extremely keen for Norfolk to get its rightful share of this have we have been overlooked in this area for too long.”
The LLFN funding could also be used to extend fibre networks to more public sector buildings, such as schools and hospitals, which would not only help to improve their own broadband capabilities but also bring superfast fibre infrastructure closer to many homes and businesses, allowing them to access faster broadband speeds.
If the committee approves the development of a full bid to the LFFN programme, the County Council would submit this on behalf of itself, Norfolk’s district councils, universities, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce and other relevant organisations. The bid is likely to be for £13 million and would be submitted later this year.
The committee will also consider a report that suggests Norfolk could benefit from establishing a regional anti-fraud hub, which would use technology to identify, stop and prevent fraud. This would be based on a model already established by the London borough councils and would be designed to help tackle fraud and corruption perpetrated against local authorities.
Fraud costs local authorities an estimated £2.1bn a year and the report suggests an anti-fraud hub could save Norfolk councils money by enabling information and resources to be shared more effectively to prevent and detect fraud loss, bring fraudsters to account more quickly and efficiently, and improve the recovery of losses as a result.
Norfolk County Council’s Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee will meet at 10am on Thursday, 12 October at County Hall in Norwich. Members of the public are welcome to attend.
About Better Broadband for Norfolk
Better Broadband for Norfolk (BBfN) is transforming broadband speeds across Norfolk by extending access to a faster, fibre broadband network to homes and businesses across the county. The programme is a partnership between Norfolk County Council and BT, with funding also provided by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) on behalf of central Government, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and five of Norfolk’s district councils – Breckland, Broadland, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, North Norfolk and South Norfolk.
Since it launched at the end of 2012, nearly £70 million has been invested in the programme, which is primarily focused on improving broadband access in the more rural parts of the county. BBfN is due to make high-speed broadband available to more than 95 per cent of Norfolk’s premises by spring 2020.
The project is already making a difference to people living, working and running businesses in Norfolk. Currently, 89% of the county’s premises can access superfast broadband (24 Megabits per second and above), more than double the number who could do so before the project got underway (42%).
For political comment
Cllr Tom Garrod (Conservative) Chairman of the Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee on 07515 356821
Cllr David Rowntree (Labour) on 07450 679993
Cllr Marie Strong (Liberal Democrat) on 07920 286597