Suffolk has been awarded almost £5 million of Government funding to make high speed broadband across the county.
The announcement means that the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme, currently working to make superfast speeds (24 megabits per second or more) available to 85 per cent of the county, can start working towards a higher target of up to 95 per cent.
Government wants 95 per cent of UK homes and businesses to have such coverage by 2017.
All properties in Suffolk have been promised speeds of at least two megabits per second.
Across the country 10,000 homes a week are being upgraded, set to rise to 40,000 a week by this summer.
The Better Broadband rollout is currently 60 per cent complete.
Suffolk has been allocated £4.82 million.
Cambridgeshire is to receive an extra £910,000 in Government funding.
This is in addition to the £1.2 billion already invested by central and local government in superfast broadband nationally.
Current investment is projected to boost local growth and offers excellent value for taxpayer money, with a net return of £20 by 2024 for every £1 spent now.
A new £10m fund will open on March 17 to fund pilot schemes using alternative broadband technologies in Britain’s most rural areas, in a bid to extend superfast coverage to all homes businesses.
Suffolk County Council leader and chair of the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme Mark Bee said: “This additional funding is excellent news and means we can start work on significantly extending the commitments we have made under the current Better Broadband for Suffolk programme.
“In particular, we’re going to be able to make high speed broadband available to more of Suffolk’s hardest to reach rural communities.
“We’re only half a year into the delivery of the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme and we’re already looking at how we can take it to the next level.
“Our current commitment to making superfast speeds available to 85% of Suffolk homes and businesses is only the beginning. We want to push forward so that even more people are able to benefit.
“I’m looking forward to this additional work getting underway and the day that slow, or non-existent, internet speeds are a thing of the past in Suffolk.”
In January 2014, Suffolk County Council announced that it was inviting potential suppliers to discuss how they could deliver the additional work.
A ‘mini-competition’ - separate to the current Better Broadband for Suffolk contract with BT – is now underway to identify a suitable supplier.
As part of the new tendering process, Suffolk County Council is conducting a review of the open market to establish what broadband coverage commercial providers are planning to deliver.
Following consultation, this information will be used to define the areas where the additional public funding can be invested.
Officials aim to complete the tendering process by the summer of 2014, and for works to start by the end of 2014 - in parallel with the on-going Better Broadband for Suffolk programme.
Announcing the funding, culture secretary, Maria Miller MP, said: “Superfast Broadband will benefit everyone in Suffolk - whether they need it for work, to do homework or simply to download music or films.
“Thousands of homes and businesses now have access and it is helping people with their everyday tasks.
“We want to make sure that Britain is one of the best countries in the world for broadband, and the extra £250 million we are investing will help ensure communities around the UK are not left behind in the digital slow lane.”
West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock said: “I am delighted that the Government is investing almost £5 million in superfast broadband in Suffolk, on top of the £11 million it has already put in.
“Access to broadband is essential for homeowners and small businesses, especially in rural areas.
“This money means that we can connect more homes to the superfast network and more families can benefit from all the services unlocked by a fast connection.”
South East Cambridgeshire MP Sir Jim Paice said: “Superfast internet access is just as important in rural areas as in towns and cities, helping businesses to thrive and individuals to benefit from online services and information.
“That is why this latest investment in rural communities is vital to install the infrastructure needed to give fast, reliable services across South East Cambridgeshire.”
If you want to find out more about the programme, for example if you are covered by the rollout areas, you can visit www.betterbroadbandsuffolk.com/ for more details.
For all the latest news see tomorrow’s (Thursday, March 13) Echo.