Norfolk's rural businesses 'angry about broadband speeds' header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

Almost half of businesses based in rural East Anglia are angry over the poor broadband speeds they have access to, according to a new report.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned the government about the "divided business broadband landscape in the UK" and has called for a review of its strategy for the rollout of super-fast broadband.

Its report, which was released earlier this week, revealed that 48 per cent of businesses based in the countryside were unhappy about their connectivity compared to 28 per cent of their urban counterparts.

According to the Eastern Daily Press' website edp24, some businesses based in more urban parts of East Anglia, such as Norwich city centre, had reported issues with their internet speeds, suggesting it is not just firms from deep in the countryside that were suffering.

However, Norfolk County Council claims its broadband programme is leading the way compared to the rest of England and believes it is working hard to deliver the necessary infrastructure to improve connectivity.

Jeanette Thurtle, development manager for the FSB in East Anglia, claim the results of her organisation's report provide a worrying snapshot of a "two-speed digital economy", where rural businesses are left in the slow lane.

She added: "The government’s strategy to deliver 24 Mbps broadband to 95 per cent of all users by 2017 is not sufficiently ambitious - especially for the five per cent of mainly rural businesses left receiving just 2 Mbps, which is barely sufficient for even basic tasks like sending commercial emails."

Ollie Blackmore, managing director at Norwich-based web agency Selesti, told the website that the problem was by no means confined to the rural areas of Norfolk. He said: "The thinking behind withholding technology which is effectively a ‘flick of a switch away’ is beyond me."

He added that it was no surprise that entrepreneurs are fleeing the countryside and heading to bigger cities to launch their start-up, as these places can offer the developed broadband infrastructure that is required.

Dr Marie Strong, chairman of the council's flagship programme Better Broadband for Norfolk, claims BT is on track to deliver broadband to 80 per cent of the country by the end of this year.

She believes the council's scheme has made more progress than any other project currently underway in England.