Perhaps better known for its rural vistas and soaring landscapes than superfast broadband, Suffolk has passed a technical milestone this week.
The local council says 90% of people in this bucolic county now have access to fibre broadband.
Around 315,000 properties in Suffolk have been connected to the Openreach fibre network.
This impressive level of coverage is the result of the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme – a scheme set up by Suffolk County Council – which began improving broadband infrastructure back in 2013.
BBFS managed to secure £24 million of public money for Suffolk fibre broadband. This was spend on investing in the Openreach infrastructure through a process known as ‘public procurement’.
Because of the low population density of rural areas, and their distance from broadband exchanges, businesses are reluctant to lay fibre cables throughout the countryside – it just isn’t commercially viable.
But, if the county council are fronting the bill, Openreach can install fibre broadband to places that otherwise wouldn’t get it.
Even the most remote places in Suffolk could see fibre connections through ‘self-dig’ schemes.
The hamlet of Baylham Stone, which wasn’t included in the Better Broadband deployment plan, managed to raise enough money among its residents to pay for their own fibre lines to be installed.
‘Self-dig’ isn’t going to be a viable option everywhere, and Better Broadband for Suffolk isn’t going to stop at 90 percent coverage.
Councillor Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member responsible for broadband, said: “While it’s great that 90% of Suffolk homes and businesses are now connected to fibre broadband, there is still more work to be done to get the entire county connected to high-speed internet. We remain committed to delivering that, and making sure that no-one is left behind.”
Suffolk plans to offer at least 98 percent of its residents the possibility of fibre broadband by 2020.
Although there are just a few people left to be connected, they are in the hardest places to reach. Getting fibre to all the farms, villages and hamlets in Suffolk won’t be an easy task.
IMAGES: John Fielding/Flickr