Digital divide causes broadband blues across Norfolk

Continuing lack of fast broadband and the problem of digital exclusion mean that many businesses and households across Norfolk are still in urgent need of reliable internet speeds.

Although £11 million of new funding will enable the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme to deliver high-speed broadband to more than 95% of Norfolk premises by 2020, the fact remains that at present many locations are digitally isolated.
BBC Radio Norfolk’s Nick Conrad recently highlighted the problem on his breakfast show, with contributions from a range of sector experts, including Jon Clemo, chief executive of local charity Community Action Norfolk, contributing to the debate.
Describing the key differences between fixed-line provision and wireless internet technology, Mr Clemo said: “We welcome the investment in fixed-line rollout, but there are existing technologies that offer reliable and realistic alternatives now.
“Our own system, ThinkingWISP, in partnership with Norwich-based In-Touch Systems and Anglia Farmers, has been providing reliable wireless broadband to customers for five years and now covers 95% of Norfolk.”
ThinkingWISP works via a system of strategically located transmitters across the county, broadcasting an uninterrupted broadband signal that offers a minimum guaranteed speed.
“That contrasts with conventional providers that give ‘up-to-a-maximum-of’ speeds, which can be a real problem when the children arrive home from school and start using the internet, or all the neighbours are trying to access the same bandwidth at the same time.” explained Mr Clemo.
“It can work out more cost-effective too, as no land-line is needed. The only constraint is whether we can actually beam the signal to your house if, for example, it’s in a ‘dip’ or closely surrounded by trees.
“Wireless broadband systems are able to cover more area more quickly; they simply don’t need to wait for fibre access to reach any given locality.”
The National Farmers Union, long concerned about lack of good broadband, has launched a survey amongst its members to assess the impact of poor digital connectivity. A previous survey found that just 15% nationally had a reliable outdoor signal.
NFU vice-president Guy Smith said its members could present good evidence to government ministers and the digital industry to support the need for access to fast broadband.


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