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Rural Norfolk UK Targets 95% Coverage of “High-Speed Broadband” by 2020

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017 (7:53 am) - Score 583
bt openreach fibre optic broadband

The Norfolk County Council and Openreach (BT) have announced that £11 million of “new funding” has been committed to help boost the coverage of “high-speed broadband” across the rural county to 95% of local homes and businesses by Spring 2020.

Today’s news means that the total investment in the related Better Broadband for Norfolk (BBfN) project has now reached £68 million, with the new deal marking the third major “high-speed broadband” (FTTC/P) extension contract for the county since 2012.

The first (original) phase completed in November 2015 after extending network coverage to around 83% of premises (here). A second Superfast Extension Programme (SEP) contract is currently on-going (here), which aims to push the network footprint out to reach 90% of premises by the end of 2017 (this appears to reference “superfast 24Mbps+ coverage, although the language used is often ambiguous).

As it stands today more than 87%+ of local premises are claimed to be within reach of a “superfast” 24Mbps+ capable broadband connection and we expect the existing 90% target to be met as planned, although it’s worth noting that this is well behind the Government’s national target of 95% for the end of 2017. However Norfolk is a particularly challenging rural county with lots of sparse communities, which slows the pace of roll-out.

Under the new contract BBfN will finally hit the Government’s 95% target, albeit not until Spring 2020. Five of Norfolk’s district councils – Breckland, Broadland, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, North Norfolk and South Norfolk – have committed over £3m, which has been match funded by the government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme.

On top of that BT has also returned £5.2m of public investment (gainshare / clawback) from the first contract due strong take-up in related areas, which has been combined with around £10 million of underspend from the same phase. All of this will be re-invested into the new contract in order to help hit the 95% target.

Cliff Jordan, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said:

“In just a few years we’ve made a huge difference to tens of thousands of people living and working in the county. Bringing high-speed broadband to 95 per cent of homes and businesses will be a great achievement but we won’t be satisfied until everyone in Norfolk can access a good broadband service. So we will continue to push for more investment and make the money we already have go as far as possible.”

Tim Whitley, BT’s Regional Director for the East of England, said:

“The new funding from the district councils, when added to the gainshare success dividend of £5.2m based on good take-up of the service already deployed, will enable the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme to reach even more homes and businesses with high-speed broadband. BT’s network now reaches more than 370,000 homes and businesses across the county when you combine it with our commercial rollout. We’re aware there’s more to do, and the roll-out continues into 2020.”

Coverage in Norfolk has certainly come a long way since the end of 2012 when the local reach of “superfast broadband” struggled to get much beyond the 40% mark and pushing it much further than that would have been very challenging without public investment.

However the new contract is sure to face many challenges as it will have little choice but to focus on some increasingly sparse communities, although the 2020 date does at least look to be a realistic reflection of that problem. Meanwhile those in the final 5% will, at least for now, have to hope that the Government’s forthcoming 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO) can offer them something better than subsidised Satellite.

In keeping with today’s announcement the BBfN website has been given a new lick of paint and a new mapping tool that will help locals to check the coverage plan.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Optimist

    Great news for incumbents like BT. What concerns me about these taxpayer-funded schemes is that they discourage the development of alternative technologies, for example fixed wireless, which might offer better value for money in sparsely populated areas.

  2. Fastman

    the last few % are getting smaller as you go get further with fibre than you could previously so the not fibre element becomes smaller and smaller and the fibre penetration gets deeper by the ability to push the fibre futher — the more innovative a community can be around self dig and other things the more fibre you can deploy

  3. Disgruntled

    My Cabinet in Norfolk has been full // ‘Waiters List’ for what seems like ages. They got their estimates very wrong but I guess my property is included in their penetration rates although technically I am unable to get FTTC.

  4. It aint gonna work

    This is all well and good but it still depends upon BT’s definition of ‘Superfast’ which currently sits at around 30-50mbs. It presumably also still depends upon copper connections to the property and not fibre. Even if fibre reached your property BT will still control download/upload speeds which are nowhere need what other parts of the UK can obtain.

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