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Rural Norfolk UK Campaigners Criticise BT Claims of National Broadband Success

Posted: 01st Sep, 2010 By: MarkJ
norfolk suffolk east anglia uk mapShaping Norfolk's Future, a business-led partnership that works to create wealth and jobs for the people of East Anglia and Norfolk in the UK, has lashed out at yesterdays claim by BT that "Broadband Britain [had] been a success story". The group noted that many residents and businesses in rural East Anglia are still without broadband or struggle to get anything more than a slow internet connection speed.

The criticisms follow yesterdays celebrations by BT. The national operator was marking a historic milestone (full details) by announcing that its UK telecoms network was now home to 15 Million broadband ISP connections. However residents of Norfolk have so far been left out of its expanding broadband ambitions, not least in BT's rollout of newer fibre optic ( FTTC ) based 40Mbps broadband services.

Chris Starkie, Chief Executive of Shaping Norfolk's Future, told EDP:

"So far BT has refused to include Norfolk in its plans. Currently if you live more than 2.5kms from an exchange the chances are you won't get broadband at all because it is travelling down copper wires. But the fibre-optic wires could give broadband to everyone and be much faster. Norfolk is the only county in the east of England not to be included.

Their milestone shows that millions of people are signing up to broadband but it makes it all the more poignant that there are still significant numbers of Norfolk residents who would like to sign up but are unable to."

The comments were supported by a spokeswoman from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), which noted that "Reliable, affordable next generation broadband (minimum 20mbps) is a must for businesses across the whole region". That is of course true of almost everywhere else in the country too.

However it is not the first time that BT has faced attack from Norfolk residents and businesses. In November 2009 BT was slated by the same group for saying that "there's a very good possibility of getting 2Mbps minimum across 100% of Norfolk in three to five years". Back then the universal 2Mbps target was still set at 2012, although it has since been delayed to 2015.

Then in January 2010 the Norfolk County Council hammered BT for excluding the region in its growing rollout of fibre optic based broadband services (here). To be fair on BT, it was early days back then and the operator could not be expected to reach everybody within a short period of time.

Separately, we're not sure where the "minimum 20mbps" definition for Next Generation Broadband came from. We note that this has also been used as a standard by other local council projects and the VOA, albeit one that some appear to ignore (example). Ofcom defined "super-fast" broadband in March 2010 as "broadband with speeds greater than 24Mbps", so as to avoid ADSL2+ ISPs claiming they could offer it and thus confusing the market.

Starkie also claims that anybody who lives "more than 2.5kms from an exchange" probably won't get broadband at all, which is not normally the case in other areas. In fact basic broadband over copper lines (i.e. ADSL , ADSL2+ etc.) has a reach of around 6.5km (variable) from the exchange before it becomes too unreliable. Perhaps he meant street cabinets.
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