A fast and reliable broadband connection is a crucial part of modern infrastructure and James has made it one of his priorities to ensure the constituency benefits from government ambitions to level up broadband speeds.
In June 2023 a £114 million contract to connect around 62,000 homes and businesses in Norfolk to gigabit broadband was awarded across locations including premises in Castle Acre,Little and Great Massingham, and Harpley. A further 8,000 premises in the north west of the county are now being reviewed for inclusion subject to survey in the next six months. Following the announcement, James met with CityFibre's Chief Operating Officer and Broadband Delivery UK's Chief Executive to discuss these 8,000 premises and the importance of gigabit coverage for North West Norfolk.
The pandemic showed how reliant we are on reliable internet connections for remote learning, to access GPs and other public services, to work from home and run businesses, access public services, as well as to stay in touch with friends and family. In addition to commercial investment plans to deliver gigabit-capable networks, the government's £5 billion Project Gigabit will be targeted at the remaining uncommercial areas with the aims to deliver 85% gigabit coverage by 2025 and push further towards 100% coverage.
More than one million hard to reach homes and businesses will have next generation gigabit broadband built to them in the first phase of a £5 billion government "Project Gigabit." Available speeds will increase to more than one gigabit per second.
Norfolk is part of the early phase of Project Gigabit. Building Digital UK (BDUK) has now issued the Invitation to Tender (ItT) to qualifying suppliers for the Norfolk regional Project Gigabit procurement. The contracts are estimated to be worth £114 million and to connect a total of 86,200 remote premises.
The contracts include two categories of intervention: Initial Scope, where the Regional Supplier should build as quickly as possible; and Deferred Scope where we wait and see whether commercial plans or voucher projects translate to delivery, but could then build if not. 6,500 premises in North West Norfolk are included in the initial scope with 1,500 included in the deferred scope.
During the procurement process, the successful bidder did not originally include those areas. However, over the next 6 months from June 2023 the provider is reviewing 8,000 premises with a view to adding them to the contract. James has met BDUK, CityFibre to underline the importance of this as well as lobbying ministers.
"Improving broadband speeds is an issue I have campaigned on so I am pleased that Norfolk will benefit from the early phase of the rollout. Now I will be working to ensure North West Norfolk benefits from this welcome investment."
The successful Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme is also being relaunched with up to £210 million to give people in eligible rural areas immediate financial help to get gigabit speeds. The new vouchers worth up to £1,500 for residents and up to £3,500 for businesses went live on 8 April 2021 and mean that rural areas will not have to wait for supplier contracts under Project Gigabit to reach them. Details on how to apply are available here. On top of this the government is making up to £110 million available to connect public sector buildings - such as GP surgeries, libraries and schools - in the hardest to reach parts of the UK with this infrastructure.
Details on the Project Gigabit programme are available here.
Superfast broadband (30Mbps or more)
Through the Better Broadband for Norfolk (BBfN) Superfast Programme - a multi-million-pound project led by Norfolk County Council, in partnership with Openreach and DCMS the availability of superfast broadband has increased from 42% to approximately 95% since the Programme started in July 2013. In addition to the Superfast Programme, the County Council has also delivered a BDUK funded Local Full Fibre Network Public Sector Building Upgrade Programme with 410 public sector buildings being upgraded through the project.
The average download speed in North West Norfolk is 41.8 Mbps and over last year the availability of superfast broadband (30Mbps or more) in North West Norfolk has increased to 95%. However, as many as 11% of premises are receiving speeds under 10 Mbps. If you can’t get a download speed of 10 Mbit/s and an upload speed of 1 Mbit/s, you can request an upgraded connection and details of how to do so are available here
Fibre First by Openreach
Fibre First is the largest UK-wide deployment and in the summer 2021 BT Openreach announced its plan to invest in connecting 25,000 premises in North West Norfolk to full fibre broadband as part of its plan to connect 25 million premises by December 2026. Everyone can use the ‘where and when’ mapping tool on the Openreach website to view a map of plans in your local area like below.