Norfolk County Council is set to become the first local authority to appoint a partner to improve broadband access through the Government's BDUK national framework contract.
Councillors have approved the appointment of BT as the County Council's partner in its Better Broadband for Norfolk project and endorse details of their bid.
The contract will see more than 80% of the county's homes and businesses able to access superfast broadband (24Mbps+) by June 2015, doubling the number that would otherwise be able to receive it. It would also see every single property in Norfolk able to access a minimum of a basic broadband service (at least 2Mbps) by the same time.
As the council's partner, BT would install an 'open' broadband infrastructure necessary to deliver improved broadband speeds and services to properties across the county, with the majority of those properties connected by 'Next Generation Access' infrastructure, either wholly or partially made up of fibre optic cabling. Internet service providers, including any of the 50-plus providers currently using BT's infrastructure, would then be able to offer a broadband service in a competitive market.
The Better Broadband for Norfolk project was launched by Norfolk County Council in order to bring better broadband provision to the large swathes of Norfolk that currently suffer from poor or no broadband access. Last year the council pledged £15 million to help bring this about, and this was matched by central Government as it became one of the first local authorities in the UK to be successful in bidding for Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funding.
In its bid, BT has pledged to make a £9.3 million 'capital' contribution towards the cost of installing the broadband infrastructure, and in addition will cover the ongoing costs of supporting and maintaining the networks.
Norfolk County Council says that while the minimum broadband speed available to properties in Norfolk by June 2015 under the deal would be 2Mbps, the majority of those properties not in the 'superfast' (24Mbps+) bracket would be able to access speeds significantly higher than this minimum standard. 20% of benefitting properties will be able to receive services with speeds ranging from five and 23Mbps. At the other end of the scale, 49% of properties are expected to be able to access speeds of between 50 and 100Mbps, with a further 6% able to receive speeds in excess of 100Mbps.