MQT on 2014-03-19
Session date: 
March 19, 2014
Question By: 
Andrew Dismore
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Are you satisfied with the coverage of high speed broadband in London?


Answer for Broadband

Answer for Broadband

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Andrew, yes.  I have said I want London to have the fastest broadband of any European city and the fastest Wi‑Fi connections.  This year, we are rolling out the SME broadband voucher scheme, which will allow businesses, charities and other non‑profit organisations to claim up to £3,000 for putting in high‑speed broadband.  We also wanted to use the fund to address unserved residential addresses because there are problems in some areas of London.  Unfortunately, the European Union state aid guidelines on broadband investment in cities means that we need to change the scope of this, rather infuriatingly.


One of the things I have done in the long term Infrastructure Plan is ask for a series of steps we can take to make sure that London basically has the best broadband coverage in the world and that everybody can be completely confident of getting a signal.  Wi‑Fi, as you know, is being extended everywhere in transport networks and is currently available in 130 Underground stations, with plans for 150 stations to have Wi‑Fi by the end of 2014 and 56 Overground stations.


Andrew Dismore AM:  You are trying to put a brave face on it, but the fact is you have presided over a high‑tech train wreck.  If you would like to look at the figures, London is sixth from the bottom of European capitals for broadband.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am sorry.  This is completely ludicrous.


Andrew Dismore AM:  There will be only 85% coverage at the end of the rollout in a few weeks’ time.  Over half of those who are connected get speeds two‑thirds below the Government target.  If you look at my constituency, the HA postcodes in Barnet, 5,000 will have no access to broadband and 90,000 are below speed.  In the EC district in Camden, a central London business district, 7,000 have no access and 11,600 are below speed.  That is hardly a success.  The fact is that it is a shambles, is it not, really?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You are talking about a city that has more tech start‑ups and more high‑tech businesses than any other in Europe ‑‑


Andrew Dismore AM:  They are all complaining about it.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ and indeed is lengthening its lead over the rest of the EU.  Obviously, I am not saying I am totally satisfied with broadband provision in London and clearly we need to do more.  It is something I have raised with both British Telecom (BT) and Virgin and we need to have better coverage.  You are slightly running London down if you say that we have a high‑tech car crash.  On the contrary, you are seeing an extraordinary success in this city.  It is the tech capital of the world.


Andrew Dismore AM:  I have to say that is the most complacent approach to one of the most serious obstacles to growth in London I have ever heard.  In fact, it is not just the European Union.  BT is in large part to blame.  It has a complete lack of communication with people who want to find out what is going on.  I have a resident in Mill Hill who has been trying to find out for months what is happening in relation to connections.  He cannot get anything done about it.  It was their legal challenge against Birmingham which actually stopped local authorities providing some support, a dog‑in‑a‑manger attitude.  It is BT who actually decides what is or is not economic to provide.  It is not monitored.  It decides whether there is enough demand or not.  That is not monitored.  It is no surprise, then, that their Openreach company, which is responsible for broadband rollout, made £5 billion in revenue last year.  The fact is they are making a huge profit by not providing the service Londoners deserve.  It is about time you got tough with them.  It is about time you called them and gave them a seeing‑to and made them spend some of that £5 billion on plugging the gaps they have created.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  As I say, we have been very tough in our representations both to BT and to Virgin Media about what they are doing to provide better coverage and we will continue to do so.  Just to repeat: we are rolling out a voucher scheme that will allow all businesses, charities and others to avail themselves of broadband.


Andrew Dismore AM:  This broad‑brush waffle is not going to do anything about getting broadband into London.  It is about time you pulled your finger out, got tough with BT and got something done about it and you have not.  This is a serious obstacle to growth in London and you are so complacent you do not even recognise it.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  On the contrary, we are this year putting out our voucher programme for £3,000 for all businesses, SMEs, charities and non‑profit organisations.


Andrew Dismore AM:  That will not pay for a single bit of extra infrastructure, will it?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am not going to pretend to you that everything is perfect.


Andrew Dismore AM:  It does not pay for any infrastructure improvements at all, does it?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I cannot hear a word you are saying when you speak so fast.  Since in my experience you never say anything worth listening to.


Andrew Dismore AM:  Take your hair out of your ears and listen.


Darren Johnson AM (Chair):  Let us stop getting stroppy with one another.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am not getting stroppy.  He always gets stroppy.  He gets incredibly irate when ‑‑


Darren Johnson AM (Chair):  Assembly Member Dismore, do you want to repeat your question?


Andrew Dismore AM:  No, it does not matter.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  OK.  He always gets in a terrible strop and I do not know why.  Let me tell you ‑‑


Andrew Dismore AM:  You are not doing your job.  That is why.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Actually, we are leading this city into a most extraordinary flowering of tech across the board and Steve O’Connell mentioned earlier on what is happening in Croydon.  We have seen 28,000 tech start‑ups just since I have been Mayor, more than any other city in Europe if not the world.  I am not going to pretend to you that our broadband is perfect, but we are putting in, as I say, a voucher scheme that will allow all businesses £3,000 to get them the broadband they need.