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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 1,900

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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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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