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UPDATE City of London Corp “fed up” with BT – Will Fix Slow Broadband Itself

Friday, November 14th, 2014 (9:41 am) - Score 1,862
City of london square mile united kingdom

The City of London Corporation, which in July criticised BT for an “unacceptable” failure to make superfast broadband available to SME businesses within the heart of London’s Square Mile (here), has said they’re still “fed up” with being ignored by the operator and have thus committed to resolve the local connectivity problems themselves.

It’s a common misconception that all dense urban areas (cities) have good broadband connectivity (here) and it might surprise some to learn that many parts of London still have problems with their Internet provision, which can be at least partly due to issues like Exchange Only Lines (EOL) and a desire by big operators to protect their lucrative leased line revenues in predominantly business areas (i.e. less incentive to invest in more affordable alternatives like FTTC etc.).

However small and medium sized firms cannot often afford an expensive leased line. Meanwhile most of the public funding that the Government are putting towards broadband tends to focus on areas that would normally be considered “not commercially viable“, which means that urban locations like some of those mentioned above can sometimes fall through the cracks (this can also affect some residential properties).

But now the CoLC has decided that enough is enough and so they’ve opted to try and fix the problem themselves which, if successful, could spell trouble for BT.

Mark Boleat, Policy Chairman of the CoLC, said:

Residents and SMEs are fed up being ignored by ‘Big Telecom’ so we have acted. The 13,500 SMEs in the Square Mile employ many people, are vital energisers of the business environment and need superfast broadband at the right price to bring growth and jobs not just to the City but also to neighbouring areas.

This work could have been done by major suppliers themselves but their business with bigger firms is too easy for them and they are just ignoring the SMEs and residents. We will provide the infrastructure to help new suppliers come into the market.”

Apparently the CoLC intends to start (Part One) by mapping the demand for superfast “fibre broadband” building by building across the Square Mile and this data will then be used to entice rival ISPs to provide connections that smaller local firms can afford.

The second phase (Part Two) will involve a “major upgrade to wireless voice and data services, using City Corporation street furniture and buildings for extra masts and connections – to help not just businesses but workers, residents and visitors in the Square Mile.” This sounds a lot like a new public WiFi network, which is something we’ve seen in other cities.

Both phases are expected to begin in January 2015 and further details should appear on THIS page in the not too distant future. In the meantime local firms can also bid for Connection Voucher grants worth between £200 and £3,000 to help them get a superfast broadband connection, although so far this approach hasn’t proved to be anything like as successful as the Government might have hoped (too many options fall through the gaps).

Separately BT has also pledged to spend £50m on improving connectivity in 30 UK cities, although we haven’t heard anything more about this since the original announcement in January 2014 (here).

UPDATE 10:21am

BT has added their reaction.

A BTOpenreach Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

London is one of the best connected cities in the world, something that was recognised in a recent report by PWC. Businesses in the City of London have truly world-leading access to business-grade connectivity services, with 14,000 businesses of all sizes within the City located no more than 25m from our business fibre infrastructure, which offers greater resilience, reliability and security than consumer fibre lines.

These connections currently support speeds of up to 10Gbps, and will offer 100Gbps from next year. We are in talks with the Corporation of London about how to increase the availability of lower-priced fibre broadband which is primarily aimed at consumers, home workers and the smallest SMEs.”

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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12 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred

    Good on them, get rivals to step up and create more competition

  2. ‘Business Fibre Infrastucture’ at £500 – £2,000 a month is the problem. It is just fibre access and where markets and policy exist the rates for business grade services are less than £100 a month. Selling private circuits as a solution to long line lengths is an established industry practice, one that needs challenging.

    Market Definitions for Business Connectivity and indeed a Fixed line are out of date.

    • It really does go beyond the pale BT bigging themselves up over the availability of leased line services when in many other peer cities a high speed FTTP service would be available to both homes and businesses alike.

      London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester get FTTC if they’re lucky, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, etc get FiOS, Amsterdam point to point gigabit, ditto Stockholm, Paris has a fair whack of FTTP coverage too.

  3. Avatar bob

    BT should be very worried, The City of London is a big money spinner. A lot I suspect is down to BT trying to protects its legacy copper local loop and leased line business

    The economics for putting a new fully fibre network into the City are very good. You have a vast number of potential customers in a very small space

    To date the focus though has been on provision for large companies with the SME’s being ignored

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Yes it will be interesting to keep an eye on, saying that if the economics are so good why hasn’t an alternate provider in that area done it already?

    • Avatar Gadget

      COLT for one have had their own fibre infrastructure in City of London for years

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Yep and others, people always assume it has to be BT and in some areas that is the case, but not in London and certainly not in the square mile

      If there was money to be made from homes and sme’s in that area surely it would have been covered already ?

    • Digging of the kind needed to get fibre to premises in the City of London if there’s no pre-existing ducting available is immensely problematic.

      It would, by a mile, be easiest for BT to deploy an FTTP solution over anyone else, however they have an extremely lucrative leased line business to protect and an extreme allergy to anything beyond the bare minimum of infrastructure investment.

      Others purely run leased line businesses in the City hence there is no business case for them to do it.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      But why not someone else like Colt? I used to do work in the Square mile 14+ years ago and they were serving businesses their, why could they not server SME’s? Even if ducting were a a problem they could use (don’t laugh) PIA?

    • Avatar No Clue

      “I used to do work in the Square mile 14+ years ago”

      Thats a big basement you have.

  4. Avatar fastman2

    fibre probably because there no commercial return in it i would suggest and there is more competition for Dedicated lines in london that anywhere else and fibre is closer and more buildings are lit — this is about businesses trying to run major business connectivity on a £20.00 per month residential highly contented product

  5. The City is not the only part of London with no affordable super-fast Internet. Most of the West End suffers the same problem. The exchanges in Soho and Mayfair have shown FTTC or FTTP “coming soon” for over 2 years. It’s always due for the end of the quarter, and once that time comes, it’s pushed back to the next quarter.

    Mayfair recently switched to “Exploring Solutions”. Soho is now scheduled for December 2014, but it will be pushed back to March 2015, and on, an on.

    Virgin Media do not serve most of the area either. At one point, the only option I had to upload large files what to take my laptop down to Piccadilly Circus Underground station!

    I understand that in both cases, at some point the issue was with Westminster City Council blocking things (with stupid things like “no the cabinets must be black, not green”), but I haven’t seen much on this topic recently.

    Now using Relish. Better download speeds, much better upload speeds. But once in a while the closest cell goes down (last time it was for over 24 hours) and then you drop to a crawl.

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