£2m broadband plan for improved speeds in West Norfolk

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District council chiefs have backed plans to invest almost £1 million in improved broadband connections, and others may be about to join them.

Cabinet members on the Breckland Council, which governs the Swaffham area, voted to support the idea at a meeting on Tuesday, while North Norfolk District Council, which covers the Fakenham area, will examine a similar idea next week.

If approved, the authorities could spend almost £2 million between them partnering a multi-million pound Norfolk County Council project to help to give residents and businesses faster connections.

And West Norfolk Council chiefs are also understood to be looking at a plan to invest in broadband connections, though no details have yet been released.

Breckland Council officials are planning to spend £950,000 on superfast broadband coverage in the district.

Although the scheme still requires full council backing at a meeting later this month, the authority’s leader, Michael Wassell, is clear about the benefits of the project.

He said: “Delivering Better Broadband for Breckland will be key to future employment and education prospects across all our communities, and will further strengthen rural community life.

“Slow or intermittent internet access is hugely disruptive for rural businesses, and makes what should be routine work or personal tasks increasingly difficult for our residents.

“For every £1 invested in superfast broadband studies tell us that the return is £20. From both the financial and community benefit perspectives the case couldn’t be clearer.”

He added: “I am determined that we will get the best we can for Breckland residents.

“The internet slow lane is no place for our communities.”

The authority estimates that the investment will help to meet the government’s target of 95 per cent broadband connection by 2017.

Meanwhile, North Norfolk District Council’s cabinet will be asked to examine a similar proposal at a meeting next Monday, July 7.

Officials have recommended that £1 million is set aside in a reserve fund to partner the county council project, although it is likely that any commitment to spend the cash would not be made until after next year’s local elections.

But their report said Norfolk’s access to superfast broadband connections is among the lowest in Britain, with only 43 per cent of properties currently enjoying such a connection.

They say that setting aside the money now would enable them to access matched funding from the government.