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Square Mile hampered by slow broadband, warns CLC

Monday, July 28th 2014 by Hannah Langston
Slow broadband 'affecting City of London' (Jupiter Images)

Slow broadband speeds are affecting residents and businesses in the City of London.

A lack of fast, affordable broadband could hold back several parts of London from competing on a global scale, according to Mark Boleat, Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation (CLC).

Writing for City AM, Mr Boleat said the Square Mile – and many other locations across the capital – aren't as attractive to businesses as they should be, due to problems with accessing high-quality broadband.

Although larger companies can take advantage of dedicated leased lines from a wide range of providers, this solution is prohibitively expensive for small and medium-sized businesses – not to mention the 9,000 people living within the City itself.

Consumers and employers that fall into this latter bracket are therefore forced to rely on slower, copper-based broadband.

Mr Boleat went on to criticise BT, claiming that companies based in the Square Mile regularly complain that the telecoms giant doesn't provide the expected level of service or carry out work in a timely fashion.

"Market failure of this kind is clearly unacceptable for a world-leading global financial centre and highlights that poor connectivity is not just an issue affecting rural areas," he commented.

Mr Boleat’s words follow Labour MP Meg Hillier’s criticism of the government’s plans for London’s Tech City following claims that around a third of local businesses and homes are still without access to high-speed broadband.

Ms Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said the situation in the area – which was dubbed Tech City by the Prime Minister in 2010 – was “a joke”.

She told the Hackney Gazette: “I’ve had letters from constituents who work from home and they need access to high-speed internet. “This is a joke, frankly.

“You can’t just throw money at a problem, it’s the infrastructure that needs changing.”

Ms Hillier recently told the Commons that the situation was a “national embarrassment” and demanded that Mr Cameron do something to fix the issue.

A petition has been started calling for London Mayor Boris Johnson to provide affordable fibre broadband to the area.

The PM told MPs that business secretary Sajid Javid is “working very hard” to fix the problem and he would make sure Hackney is on his list.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) recently said that UK broadband is not fit for purpose, and targets are not ambitious enough compared to other nations.

It called for the government to commit to delivering a minimum of 10Mbps for all homes and businesses by 2018/19, rising to 100Mbps by 2030.

The government's ambition is to provide 95% of the UK with speeds of 24Mbps or higher by 2017, with the rest having a minimum speed of 2Mbps.

A recent report from the FSB suggested that 45,000 UK small businesses are still on dial-up speeds.

94% of small business owners consider a reliable internet connection critical to the success of their business, the FSB said, but just 15% say they are very satisfied with their broadband provision.

It recommended prioritising the delivery of fibre broadband to new and existing business parks; a new ambitious national broadband strategy; and reform of the broadband market.

But both BT and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the picture was not as bad as the FSB suggested.

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