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£10m push for rural Suffolk homes to get superfast broadband given green light

PUBLISHED: 05:30 16 January 2020

Work on installing superfast broadband in Suffolk. Picture: OPENREACH

Work on installing superfast broadband in Suffolk. Picture: OPENREACH

Archant

The third phase of Suffolk's superfast broadband programme has been given approval to begin, which aims to target the hardest 2% to reach.

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks is preparing to publish the results of the consultation. Picture: GREGG BROWNSuffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks is preparing to publish the results of the consultation. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk County Council's cabinet on Tuesday agreed to reinvest the £10million funding received from BT Openreach during the first two phases of the superfast broadband rollout.

Currently, about 96% of properties have access to superfast broadband - speeds of 30Mbps or more - with that percentage to rise to 98% by the end of phase two.

READ MORE: "Revolutionary" £12m fibre network plan

The final phase, which cabinet approved for the go ahead on Tuesday, aims to make the service available for the last 2%.

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks, Conservative, said: "Suffolk was one for the first local authorities to sign a phase one contract with BT Openreach in December 2012, which is a long time ago.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Penny Otton said residents were also asking for improvements to mobile phone signal. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNLiberal Democrat Cllr Penny Otton said residents were also asking for improvements to mobile phone signal. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"Suffolk has achieved one of the highest levels of take-up, which is really important, 68% and growing.

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"That really demonstrates there is a growing demand and if there is one key message it is please do take it up if you have the opportunity.

"Phase three is an extension for that programme, and of course the ultimate aim is to reach 100% coverage across the county in time."

According to the council, it has also secured a £1.7m grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to support rural business broadband.

READ MORE: Work to tackle Suffolk Coastal 'not-spots'

The 'gainshare' funding from the first two contracts with BT Openreach is based on the number of properties taking up the superfast broadband option, and the county's success to date means that is around £10m which can be put back into the final phase.

Most broadband in Suffolk is currently provided by fibre to an external cabinet, but the last leg to a customer's home or office is provided by a traditional copper wire which is not able to cope with the highest speeds.

Penny Otton, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group at the council, said: "I am sure people in the very obscure local areas will be delighted to know they can access high speed broadband.

"There are some instances where people are saying that's absolutely fine but I would really like to have a mobile phone signal.

"I really feel this is another issue we need to push."

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