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Why London’s next mayor needs to improve the capital’s broadband infrastructure


Will Harnden, chief marketing officer at Relish, argues that London’s next mayor should address the lack of broadband connectivity in some areas.

On the 5th of May, Londoners have a pretty important decision to make.

One that will shape the way the city operates for years to come.

The pressure is definitely on for London’s next mayor to improve the state of the current broadband infrastructure across the capital once elected.

If the city is to continue as one of the leading global tech hubs, then the next mayor must put broadband connectivity at the forefront.

The broadband situation in London is hugely misunderstood. Whilst it’s true that we now have 90% access to superfast broadband in London, it’s the last 10% of unavailability, which is in areas of the city where we need it most.

We work with numerous businesses across the city, all of which have previously experienced connectivity issues that were hindering business operations.

Take one of our business customers, Preiskel & Co LLP, a law firm based in the City of London, in the ‘business district’ of London.

When they initially relocated to Temple, they were unable to find a broadband provider that met their needs.

Despite the area housing many other law firms, one of the deciding factors for the office relocation, they were struggling with download speeds of 6Mbps.

What they hadn’t realised before moving was that because the area itself dates back to 1677, they would be unable to take up any of the historical pavements to install wired internet – a problem that affects many parts of the city!

Another of our customers, Arancini Brothers, who serve up Italian golf-ball sized risotto balls known as ‘arancini’ to hungry Londoners, were experiencing issues with the connectivity of their credit card machines at one of their pop-up venues in Broadgate.

With their pop-up reliant on a brisk and efficient trade for busy customers, it was starting to hinder the thriving business. Our plug and play broadband helped to boost sales by 39%.

There is a wealth of research revealing the state of the broadband in the city is below par, especially around Silicon Roundabout, with some companies being unable to send an email at peak times – which, in this day and age, is madness!

What we need

We firmly believe London’s next mayor needs to support London SMEs more effectively by reassessing how more flexible broadband services can be offered going forwards.

In order to achieve this, we need to:

  1. Make sure tools like the Interactive Connectivity Map and Connectivity Ratings Scheme are widely known and used. Last year, current Mayor Boris Johnson, launched an Interactive Connectivity Map, which roughly shows areas of both slow and superfast broadband coverage. It also allows residents and businesses to register their interest for faster broadband services and show demand from local premises, helping to create clear picture on where connectivity lacks.
  1. Buildings should be publicly rated for broadband speed –in Hong Kong buildings are rated on broadband speed and these ratings are then listed on all property rental listings, which in turn encourages landlords to install better broadband. The next mayor could act on making these ratings happen. Many other countries are also beginning to adopt this too, like New York and Holland for instance.
  1. Businesses must come together on this issue – rural communities have been successful in working together to get better broadband in their area. Why isn’t the same thing happening among business communities in London? Lobbying together should help ISPs to obtain permission for works on London streets and rooftops quicker.

In one of the world’s leading tech and business hubs, getting online quickly and easily should not be a modern-day worry.

This issue has been a hot topic over the last few weeks, and will continue to be scrutinised over the next couple of weeks leading up to Election Day! We’re calling on London’s next mayor to similarly support the development of stronger broadband connectivity across the city.

London’s tech community needs a forward-looking City Hall, which champions the growth of a dynamic industry that is undoubtedly forming an exciting future for our city. The technology sector represents the best of London business – driving innovation, job creation and economic growth across the capital.

That’s why it’s imperative that broadband connectivity is top of the next mayor’s agenda. Making sure London’s talented tech industry and business startups can benefit from superfast broadband in the areas that really need it, will continue to strengthen London’s position as a global city of commerce.