Suffolk gets £250k for broadband wireless and FTTH projects
We’ve been here before. A wireless broadband project gets funding from a development agency only to find that the money mysteriously goes into a pool for a county-wide broadband project usually led by BT.
This has happened in Lancashire, in Surrey, Cumbria, Cornwall, Norfolk, Rutland, North Wales and other places.
The latest project to emerge centres on Parham in Suffolk. The East of England Development Agency (EEDA) has awarded a £250,000 grant to Suffolk Acre (Action with Communities in Rural England) to develop high speed broadband fibre and wireless mesh networks.
The news comes just weeks after Suffolk had a £20m bid for BDUK money turned down. Suffolk Acre has been invited to a county council meeting to see how it can help further the BDUK bid.
Operations director for the Suffolk Acre charity Roger Turkington told local radio the two programmes were complementary. “We want to see the whole of Suffolk fibred-up,” he said.
The wide area wireless network is expected to provide access speeds of 50Mbps to approximately 30,000 homes and 4,000 businesses on the Suffolk coast and Waverley district, and possibly inland. A fibre to the home (FTTH) deployment in Parham will reach 100 homes, 20 businesses and the Framlingham technology centre.
Turkington said the end game was to have optical fibres to all homes, but “commercial realities” made it unlikely without outside funding. He said the estimated cost of fibring-up the whole of Suffolk ranged between £400m and £800m.
He said rural communities had to be self-reliant and do things for themselves. But that didn’t mean they should become network operators, he said.
He said Parham had been chosen for its proximity to the Framlingham technology centre which housed a company called Miniflex. Miniflex made “all sorts of fibre optic connectors and ducts and various widgets”, he said. “They’re going to help us with their expertise.”
Jenny Stockman, business development manager at the technology centre, said a high speed fibre optic broadband connection had been “absolutely essential for all of the businesses at the centre for 10 years”.
Suffolk Acre is preparing invitations to tender. It hopes to have the network up and running by the end of the year.
It is working with the Plunkett Foundation and the Independent Networks Cooperative Association.