Happy New Year to all residents – with a number of things to look forward to in 2015, one key piece of infrastructure I am keen to see available for all is access to broadband. We have already seen the availability of superfast broadband increase from 43 percent to 80 percent across the country. This improved connectivity means improved productivity and opportunities in rural areas.
Last week in Westminster Norfolk MPs quizzed representatives from Better Broadband for Norfolk and BT. Questions were raised about the rollout programme and how each area is prioritised for work. The challenges faced by BT include the appropriate siting of the fibre cabinet, access to power and how far local residents homes or businesses are from the box thereby impacting on the speed of service.
Norfolk was one of the first counties to secure £15 million of government funding, with an additional £5 million coming through this year. This will be matched by £5 million from the LEP and £1 million from NCC, plus Breckland have committed £1.9 million and West Norfolk £1 million to the project. I am keen to see rural villages that are more challenging to reach, do have access to broadband. Karen O’Kane from the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme confirmed that if any property is not covered by fibre then an alternative arrangement will be sourced for them. They are currently working with BDUK and BT to implement alternative technologies for those sub 2 Mbps properties that won’t benefit from fibre. She also went on to say that she is very happy to meet parish councils to discuss their particular requirements and further details can be obtained from http://www.betterbroadbandnorfolk.co.uk.
As Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs I am taking a delegation of food producers, including a number from East Anglia, to China. There is a huge appetite in Asia for British products including pork, cheese and even tea. More business overseas means more jobs in the food industry in Britain which employs one in eight people.