PRESS RELEASE: MP’s slam ‘digital divide’ of Norfolk’s slow broadband

19th July 2016

Local broadband provider WiSpire issues ‘call to arms’ to Norfolk County Council
Broadband rollout in rural counties like Norfolk has been slammed by the Governments Department of Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) and deemed a ‘major problem’ for homes trying to connect in the digital economy and businesses trying to grow in the most rural parts of the county.

The Committees report acknowledges that the broadband programme, to date, fronted in Norfolk by the County Council with BT, has been reasonably successful in developing urban areas. Following the select committees’ announcement, however, the focus should now shift to giving service to those who don’t have it, those in broadband ‘not spots’.

In the report which was published today, 19th July, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee – which convened a panel of expert advisers for the inquiry – said that BT is “significantly under-investing” in Openreach, its infrastructure subsidiary. They also concluded that BT had exploited its position to make strategic decisions that “favour the Group’s priorities and interests”.
The report by the DCMS is also incredibly critical of BT’s lack of transparency regarding their costs and deployment plans in relation to the Broadband Delivery (BDUK) programme which they say has ‘stifled local competition and thwarted other network providers’ planning. This lack of transparency has led to frustration for consumers expecting the BT programme to provide them with coverage which may never come. At the same time, this has the effect of deterring investment by other network operators.

In a meeting with the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on 3 February, Steve Maine, Chief Executive of WiSpire, explained how the broadband situation can be improved. In WiSpire’s view, as more services move online through the Government’s ‘digital by default’ strategy, the importance of good, reliable broadband will only continue to grow: people need the internet to pay their bills, to submit their homework or access entertainment or other media, and to run their farms and other businesses. It has become an essential utility.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Steve Maine, Chief Executive of WiSpire said; “This is an important day in the development of broadband connectivity in in the UK. We at WiSpire have been working hard to deal with Norfolk’s rural broadband issues. It’s great to hear that the Government has finally realised that broadband has become an essential utility for homes, schools and businesses across the UK. We know there are a lot of people and businesses throughout Norfolk blighted by a poor connection and this is an important step forward. Rolling out rural broadband to everybody is a priority and we are in a position to do something to help.”

Mr Maine added; “Norfolk County Council and BDUK will need a complete rethink on its’ broadband strategy across the county: The main reason rural areas like Norfolk suffer poor broadband is because the Government has concentrated on using only one technology – fibre optic – and has contracted with a single provider – BT.”

The Committee recommended that Government should support the use of other technologies, and support the efforts of other network operators, like WiSpire. It also said that any money returned by BT to BDUK and the County Councils as a result of greater efficiencies being achieved with the publically funded fibre network development should not simply be recycled to BT for limited further expansion of its fibre network.

Mr Maine continued; “We hope that with this change, we can now as a business begin to expand our network to support those rural parts of the county and provide them with the services they so desperately need.”

-ENDS-

For further information, please contact:

Lisa Power
Marketing & Communications Executive, WiSpire
T: 01603 904040
lisa.power@wispire.co

For interviews, comment, photography, or interest in by-lined articles please contact lisa.power@wispire.co