Priority pledge urged for rural broadband

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SUFFOLK’S MPS and small businesses have called for assurances that rural areas will get priority for better broadband.

Most Suffolk MPs attended a meeting with the county’s Federation of Small Businesses at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s Ipswich offices on Friday.

Bury MP David Ruffley said a major issue at the meeting was the setting up of the massive broadband infrastructure to which the Government pledged nearly £11.7 million in August.

He said FSB members and MPs were concerned that Better Broadband for Suffolk (BBFS) had had a poor response from companies prepared to take part in a multiple provider way of building the infrastructure and feared that a monopoly provider but not be as responsive.

Mr Ruffley said: “Monopolies don’t give a monkey’s about the consumer because they have a captive audience.

“But whether it is BT or BT plus others, the question remains: at what pace are we going to get villages done? I wasn’t satisfied with the assurance we got on that.”

He said the fear was that providers would ‘go for the easy stuff’ by boosting the services in towns and easy access areas while those in more remote and difficult areas, who needed improvements the most, were left waiting.

Mr Ruffley added: “They haven’t got to the nitty gritty of the contracts yet. My point was that the contracts will have to be written carefully.

“There has to be a clear understanding that the rural areas will get a fair crack of the whip.”

He said the MPs had vowed to keep an eye on how it was set up.

A spokesman for BBFS said: “The campaign to bring better broadband to Suffolk is focused on ensuring everyone in the county gets access to superfast connections in the future.

“The broadband speed some of our residents and businesses experience are not acceptable. We are passionate about making sure that everyone affected has an equal voice – over the coming weeks we will be announcing a survey that will play a major part in bringing better broadband to Bury St Edmunds and the whole of Suffolk.”