Is London losing out in the race for superfast broadband? It’s a vital question, and one that the Evening Standard is right to ask – because good broadband is essential for a thriving economy.
A couple of weeks ago, we reached a milestone in our mission to get superfast broadband to people living in rural areas. Two million more homes and businesses can now get it – homes and businesses that wouldn’t have it without our investment.
But while rural areas are catching up, people are now asking if a city like London is falling behind. A high-powered House of Lords committee has levelled this accusation and put London near the bottom of a league table of cities.
In fact, the picture is much better than the Committee paints.
Business broadband is readily available in London.
Most businesses can access speeds of up to 1 gigabytes a second.
But it’s expensive. That’s why the media regulator Ofcom has conducted enquiries into the business broadband market – and prices are now falling.
Nine out of ten London homes can get superfast broadband.
And domestic broadband prices in the UK are among the lowest in Europe.
London is also benefiting – as is the rest of the UK – from the fastest roll out of 4G mobile broadband in the world, following our successful auction of new spectrum.
Fibre broadband providers aren’t standing still either.
Virgin has just announced a £3 billion programme to bring broadband to four million homes – a significant chunk of which will be in London.
BT is trialling new technologies specifically to help get broadband to urban centres and buildings that contain multiple units.
Government is determined to help as well. That’s why we have pioneered broadband business vouchers, which help small businesses connect to business broadband for free. Thousands of London businesses have taken up the offer.
We’re also looking at making it simpler for broadband providers to access land and property where they need to upgrade infrastructure.
Local councils can do their bit as well. They can make it easier for broadband providers to get planning permission to put up cabinets, or coordinate street works to ensure fibre can be laid quickly.
A recent report by the consultants PwC put London at the top of 30 global cities. It ranked our capital as no. 1 for “technology readiness” alongside Seoul in South Korea, traditionally the touchstone city for all things digital. Survey after survey puts the UK at the top of rankings for broadband in terms of both speed and cost. As a nation, we are one of the most technologically savvy in the world, being early adopters and heavy users of everything from smart phones to e-commerce.
But we cannot be complacent if we want London to keep its place as one of the leading cities in the world for technology. I will continue to work with the Mayor, local councils, MPs, and businesses that are frustrated at the pace of change, to ensure that London is the world’s digital capital.