Mayor and Internet providers pledge to improve digital connectivity

16 September 2014

London’s largest internet providers will meet the Mayor of London today (September 16) at a summit to discuss how to make the capital the best connected city in Europe and further improve affordable access to superfast connections for homes and small businesses.

 

Whilst London leads Europe in much of its broadband connectivity there are still concerns - slow and unreliable broadband is a common complaint from some high-tech businesses in the capital - and the Mayor’s Office believe a shift from basic broadband to superfast could boost London’s economy by around £4bn by 2024.

 

The Mayor wants 99 per cent of properties in the capital to have access to affordable superfast connections by 2018. Currently Ofcom estimate that 89 per cent of the capital can obtain superfast connections through fibre broadband but only 25 opt for the faster link. The Mayor’s Office also estimate there are 6,500 properties in ‘not-spots’ areas - where internet speeds run ten times slower than the average speed across the capital. The Mayor is keen to explore solutions with providers that will enable improved uptake of super-fast broadband and eliminate the problem of ‘not-spots’ around the Capital.

 

Against that background, London’s first ever ‘Connectivity Summit’ will see Internet companies including Virgin Media, BT and Telefonica meet today. The Mayor will encourage them to work with his team to improve connectivity and deliver fast and universal access to the Internet from both mobile and fixed devices so that London remains one of the best cities in the world to live, work and do business in.

 

The summit follows publication in July of the Mayor’s London Infrastructure Plan 2050 - the first ever attempt to set out the full range of infrastructure requirements for the capital over the next half century, during which time the population of London is forecast to increase by thirty seven per cent to more than 11 million people. The plan recommends working towards London becoming potentially the first capital city in the world to deploy 5G (by 2020) and to ensure that WiFi coverage is significantly improved.

 

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: “The Internet is now considered the fourth utility and if we are to remain competitive in the global economy and bolster our reputation as the greatest city on earth we need to ensure every Londoner is able to access the very best digital connectivity. By bringing together the great and good of the digital community we are today committing to ensuring that London has the infrastructure in place to stay ahead of our competitors while enabling businesses and residents to take full advantage of its benefits.”

 

Today, the Mayor and Internet providers will discuss the potential of introducing a connectivity rating scheme across the city with the aim of encouraging developers and building owners to improve the connectivity of their properties. The London Enterprise Panel has allocated £50,000 towards the scheme that would be similar to those operating in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. It would create transparency about broadband infrastructure by giving businesses information about a building’s connectivity when choosing where to locate and allowing landlords to market their buildings’ assets and compete for tenants.

 

The summit will also look to create a connectivity advisory group that will take forward as range of actions to solve London’s connectivity issues including a city-wide mapping exercise to ascertain existing levels of high-speed connectivity accessibility and the barriers to provision in ‘not spots’. It will also look at plans to use street furniture like bus stops to improve connectivity and ensure providers advise customers about the latest tech available.

Those attending the summit will also discuss the best way to support an economically viable mix of technologies including fibre broadband, mobile broadband and other methods of superfast Internet delivery.

Joe Garner, CEO of Openreach, BT’s local access network business, said: “London is a world class city with world class connectivity. In fact, an independent report from PWC recently rated London as joint first in the world along with Seoul for technology readiness, well ahead of New York and other major cities. Regarding broadband, London is just one point behind Seoul in second place among major global cities - showing how well it is doing.

 

"Every business in the capital is able to access ultra-fast broadband via dedicated lines. Consumer fibre broadband - which may also appeal to small businesses - is available to 88 per cent of properties in London and that figure is growing all the time. London's world class connectivity has helped the capital to thrived over the decades. We’re delighted that the Mayor and his team are holding this summit to discuss how we make sure London’s strong position becomes yet stronger, and I have offered to personally share our plans with the Mayor at his convenience.”

 

Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Securing a world class, connected capital city is a vital investment in all of our futures. It will reap a dividend far beyond London too; improving the UK’s international competitiveness, attracting investment and securing employment. At Virgin Media, we are proud to be supercharging London with unbeatable broadband, superfast WiFi and extending our network to reach an additional 100,000 homes. It’s an investment we’d like to continue building on.”

 

Also attending today’s summit is Anthony Impey of Optimity, a company based in Tech City that supplies ultrafast broadband connections to small and medium size business using a pioneering wireless technology that avoids the need to install fibre optics. This dramatically reduces the time to get connected to the service as well as being much more affordable.

 

He said: “It’s never been more important for this initiative to happen. London’s leading role in the global economy is under threat if we don’t come together to fix the issue of slow broadband.”

 

The Mayor of London is also encouraging small businesses in the capital to take advantage of a multimillion pound scheme to provide them with high speed broadband. Businesses can apply for a voucher worth up to £3,000 to help them with the set up cost of high speed internet connections. This £23m scheme is part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s ‘Super-Connected Cities’ initiative, which will see the installation of high speed broadband in 22 cities nationwide.

 

 

Notes to editors

London Infrastructure Plan

The London Infrastructure Plan sets the infrastructure that the Mayor believes the city will require over the next half century.

  • The London Infrastructure Plan discusses how the city can better embrace existing leading technology, be open yet realistic about the potential of future technology, and suggests how we might better hardwire innovation into our approach to the city’s development.
  • In addition to establishing a connectivity advisory group and a connectivity rating scheme it also calls for more flexible planning to improve conditions for the roll out of faster broadband across the city using powers set out in the London Plan
  • It also champions the use of more effective methods of laying broadband, such as microtrenching and lobbying to bring planning applications for communications infrastructure within the Mayor’s strategic responsibility, with the ability to take them over for his own determination as a means of last resort.

The London Infrastructure Plan can be accessed here - https://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/business-economy/vision-and-strategy/infrastructure-plan-2050

 

 

  • The £50,000 allocated by the London Enterprise towards a connectivity rating scheme is subject to final approval.

 

  • More than 1,000 businesses have already registered to receive vouchers and the Mayor’s Office expects this number to rise considerably over the next 12 months.

 

  • The Mayor has also invested £1.2m in a public wifi scheme for free-entry museums and libraries across London.

 

The Connectivity Advisory Group will work in conjunction with the London Infrastructure Delivery Board, with the following objectives:

 

  • to work in partnership with providers to tackle the challenge of ubiquitous and affordable connectivity coverage

 

  • to take forward a city-wide mapping (including underground) exercise to ascertain existing levels of high speed broadband accessibility and identify the barriers to provision in ‘not-spots’

 

  • to develop a profile of business and consumer communities and their potential communication infrastructure needs; consider ways to aggregate demand; and explore ways to encourage the take up superfast broadband

 

  • to advise on and assist with the delivery of the Mayor’s Digital Inclusion Plan, due to be published in Autumn 2014.

 

  • to develop a strategy for better utilising existing infrastructure to deliver improved availability and connection speeds.

 

Connectivity ratings

 

  • The city wide mapping exercise will be used to develop a connectivity ratings map, introducing a rating system for individual properties both to assist consumers and providers and to encourage developers and property owners to improve the connectivity of their properties.

 

  • The ratings approach may be developed along similar lines to Right Move’s 'Check Broadband Speed' which is now included in its property listings, or to Energy Performance Certificates.

 

  • We will also work with estate agents and surveyors to develop ways of assessing properties for their connectivity and to ensure that such assessments become part and parcel of building surveys in future, given their importance to consumers and businesses.

 

Transport for London (TfL) is also focused on utilising its own network to provide connectivity. Through it’s partnership with Virgin Media at over 140 stations, over one million people are now connected online Underground. All Tube passengers can keep up-to-date with TfL travel information and quality London entertainment and news for free through Virgin Media’s WiFi portal.