Broadband firm pledges 'Herculean effort' in hyperfast roll-out
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A firm providing hyperfast broadband infrastructure in Norfolk says there must be a "Herculean effort" after MPs raised fears rural areas could be left behind.
County Broadband, which is in the process of providing full-fibre connectivity in Norfolk, made the pledge following an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
In a new report, the committee said rural communities could be "locked out" of cutting-edge internet for years due to a "litany" of government failures.
It accused leading politicians of “yet again failing to prioritise” isolated areas.
The government recently revised its aim of delivering gigabit-capable connections to every UK home by 2025, lowering the target to 85pc.
And, in response to the PAC's report, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said 1Gbps provision was being "rolled out rapidly".
County Broadband has earmarked 6,500 properties across 33 villages in Breckland and South Norfolk for hyperfast infrastructure.
Its chief executive Lloyd Felton said: "Lockdown is exposing critical problems with our digital infrastructure, with businesses struggling to work from home and children unable to access online learning.
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“The path to full-fibre has its challenges and, to succeed, it requires a Herculean effort with local providers and the government working together.
"We’ve seen in the past how rural areas have been left behind. We cannot afford to make the same mistakes again."
The government is reliant on firms like County Broadband to roll out full-fibre infrastructure, replacing the Victorian copper-based networks on which ‘superfast’ connections are based.
The UK has one of the lowest rates of access to full-fibre in Europe.
Meg Hillier, chairman of the PAC, said: “With the country and economy locked down for months, the government's promises on digital connectivity are more important than ever.
"But due to a litany of planning and implementation failures at DCMS, those promises are slipping farther and farther out of reach, even worse news for the rural excluded who face years trying to recover with sub-standard internet."
A DCMS spokesman responded: "Gigabit-capable broadband is being rolled out rapidly – from one in 10 households in 2019 to one in three today.
"Our £5bn UK Gigabit Programme will focus on ensuring the hardest-to-reach 20pc of the country is not left behind."