Suffolk’s superslow broadband problem

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PROBLEMS linking a town centre area to superfast broadband have highlighted Suffolk’s internet inertia.

While most of Bury St Edmunds can choose fibreoptic-based broadband with speeds up to 40 megabits per second (Mb/s), BT has told residents in the Churchgate Area they will have to wait because of difficulties finding safe places for connection cabinets.

Churchgate Area Association chairman Andrew Hinchley said: “We’re dead in the middle of an area that’s got it, but we’re the only ones who haven’t

“My fear is that if we miss out on this round of updates, we can’t get the next round because it will be too much trouble.”

But broadband campaigners say central Bury is well served and it is more important to push better broadband for the whole county.

Choose Suffolk is running a campaign, above, be at the top of the queue for Government broadband funding, at www.choosesuffolk.com/betterbroadbandforsuffolk.

Its chairman Andy Wood said: “The campaign is a clarion call from Suffolk that being linked to the rest of the world via the information superhighway remains a problem which must be rectified.”

West Suffolk phone numbers entered into the broadband speed check on BT’s website showed Churchgate area has an estimated speed of 17Mb/s even without superfast. On the Howard Estate, the standard broadband speed drops to 2.5Mb/s, but its superfast speed was 33Mb/s. Mildenhall and Stowmarket trail at 7 to 8Mb/s even close to the exchanges.

In many villages, speeds are well down, with Ingham at 3.5Mb/s, Troston 2Mb/s and West Row 1Mb/s. Remote homes with long line lengths to the exchange get superslow broadband – a farm at the limit of Mildenhall exchange’s area struggles with 0.246Mb/s.

The Country Land and Business Association’s Eastern director Nicola Currie stressed that low speeds give rural businesses serious problems, including filling in the many online forms Government demands, from animal movement data to tax returns. She said: “There is nothing more frustrating than being thrown off the system halfway through VAT returns.

“Broadband is the fourth utility. They talk about it being ‘the rural third’ who miss out but in Suffolk it’s more like the rural two thirds.”

A BT spokesman said: “BT is committed to bringing faster internet to all, and continues to work on solutions for the small number of customers impacted by [low speeds]. BT has enabled almost all its 5,600 exchanges thereby ensuring rural areas have access to broadband. According to the EU, the UK ranks better than France, Germany, Italy or Spain.”