Dismore reveals Broadband rollout shortcomings in Barnet and Camden

Andrew Dismore, Labour London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden today published details of the broadband rollout in Barnet and Camden, which show a significant shortfall in necessary connectivity.

Mr Dismore said:

“I have had a meeting with BT’s General Manager for London and the south and east of England. Their scheduled broadband rollout in London is expected to be completed by next Spring.

However, only 85% of London as a whole, ( 91% outer London, 76% inner London) will be covered. In Barnet 93% will be able to be connected, in Camden just 70%.

I would really like to hear directly from people who have been denied connection to fast broadband by BT, and the problems this causes them so I can campaign for more action on this.

The figures are marginally better by approximately 6% across the Capital if other providers are included, but this still leaves many people in London in general and in the two boroughs in particular left out, because BT consider that to extend the roll out is not economic for them to do. In the outer boroughs like Barnet, it is mainly a “sparcity of demand” issue and in the inner boroughs like Camden, it is mainly due to the more complex technical demands of siting the equipment in already service crowded areas.

To reach coverage in to the high 90s% across Londonwould need a subsidy in the region of £100 million. Whilst rural areas and smaller towns are being subsidised by the Government and local councils up to £530 million, the European Commission does not allow subsidy for rollout in urban city areas as it is seen as breaking the present “state aid for private companies”rules.

From next year, there will be some help available to SMEs through vouchers drawn on the £25m urban broadband fund to help get faster connections through the existing network, but this will not cover new infrastructure, like installing fibre optic cabling, which is the main problem.

I believe the Government and the Mayor should be doing far more to lobby the European Commission to permit the necessary subsidy to allow full roll out; and should be finding the necessary funds to enable this to happen, as it is vital to the future economic and social development of the Capital, in my view.

I challenged the Mayor on this at the last Economy Committee, but I suspect the Conservative Party’s(including the Mayor’s) attitude towards the EU does not help achieve the necessary progress.

I have raised the issue with the Labour MEPs for London, Mary Honeyball MEP and Claude Moraes MEP, to enlist their assistance with this, too.

Mary Honeyball MEP said:

“At present the situation in London is not sustainable. The fact that 15% of Londoners are still not covered by proper broadband connections means we are less switched on and joined up as a city than we should be. The internet now forms an essential part of everyday life, so it is essential that London gets the infrastructure it needs to make sure all its residents are properly connected.

“With technical difficulties resulting from densely populated areas meaning Inner London has just 76% broadband coverage – compared to 91% in Outer London – we are in danger of becoming a two speed city. It is vital that Boris Johnson and others make the case for better broadband across the capital, so that we can remain a well-informed and dynamic hub for ideas and enterprise.”