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Plans to extend superfast broadband to West Norfolk

Council plan to invest in Norfolk's future.
Council plan to invest in Norfolk's future.

Millions of pounds of investment could be ploughed into a county council programme to help double broadband access in West Norfolk.

Members of Norfolk County Council’s digital innovation and efficiency committee will consider two opportunities to extend the Better Broadband for Norfolk (BBfN) programme to West Norfolk at a meeting at County Hall on Tuesday.

The first opportunity would see £11 million of BBfN contract rebates reinvested back into the programme, which would be used to help make superfast broadband available to properties that are not already in line to receive access.

The rebates are due to be paid to the council to avoid public money being used to subsidise commercially-viable networks, following higher than expected levels of take-up of the broadband services on BBfN-installed infrastructure to date.

The other opportunity has the potential to bring an additional £2 million into Norfolk with the specific aim of making superfast broadband services available to rural businesses.

Officers are proposing to bid for a share of the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs’ £30 million Rural Broadband Grant national fund, to be used where there is “a defined business need” and to enable economic growth.

And if the council does decide to bid for this funding it would be competing against other local authorities and the money will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Chairman of the digital innovation and efficiency committee, Tom Garrod said: “Our Better Broadband for Norfolk programme has already transformed broadband speeds for many people in the county, including in some of our most rural areas.

“We’re on course to increase superfast broadband access in Norfolk to 95 per cent by March 2020 but we need to do more to reach the final five per cent, and we’re absolutely committed to getting to 100 per cent coverage as soon as we can.

“Investing an additional £13 million on top of the nearly £70 million already spent or committed to BBfN would help us reach thousands more homes and businesses in Norfolk and get us much closer to our goal of eliminating broadband inequality in the county.”

Norfolk County Council’s digital innovation and efficiency Committee will meet at 10am on Tuesday.

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