Culture minister Ed Vaizey discusses the Better Broadband project with Norfolk County Council economic development cabinet member Ann Steward and BT managing director for next generation access Bill Murphy.

Minister praises council’s “exemplary job” in Norfolk broadband roll-out

Friday, January 25, 2013
10.18 AM

A Government minister has hailed Norfolk County Council as “a model authority” leading the rest of the country in the way it is organising the roll-out of superfast broadband.

Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, yesterday visited County Hall in Norwich to chair a meeting of the first Fast Start initiative in the UK as work begins on a £41m project to deliver fibre broadband to rural parts of the county.

The summit included representatives from Norfolk County Council, BT and UK Power Networks, and was aimed at ensuring all parties involved work together to remove potential barriers to the rollout of the network, the result of a campaign backed by the EDP.

Discussions focused on ironing out planning, highways and power issues which could otherwise have caused delays to installation.

Following the meeting, Mr Vaizey said Norfolk County Council had done “an exemplary job” in the way it had coordinated the Fast Start scheme, and that the initiative was a leader for the rest of the UK.

“A lot of different people have roles in rolling out superfast broadband,” he said. “It’s not just simply BT doing it on its own: everyone has a part to play to ensure things go as smoothly as possible.

“I think Norfolk has done an exemplary job of bringing all those parts of the jigsaw together.”

He said the meeting was an opportunity to ensure all parties “are rowing in the same direction” and avoid delays caused by “the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing”.

“This process ensures that those two hands are coordinated. It means there will be very few hiccups: BT turning up to install a cabinet will know they have permission and the power company will be ready to power it up,” he said.

“I’m very impressed with how far down the road Norfolk has got.”

Ann Steward, cabinet member for economic development at Norfolk County Council, said the council had taken a “rigorous” approach to planning the roll-out.

She added: “There is a real commitment from everyone involved in this project to get Norfolk’s broadband networks upgraded and provide faster services as soon as possible.”

Bill Murphy, Next Generation Access managing director at BT, said: “Rolling out fibre broadband across a large, rural terrain is a complex engineering and logistical challenge.

“Collaborative working is key to understanding and overcoming the challenges associated with a project of this scale, and the Government’s First Start initiative is an important step forward in moving Norfolk into the broadband fast lane without delay.”