Dismore raises poor broadband coverage highlighted by the impact of Covid on Londoners working from home

At today’s London Assembly plenary on  COVID-19 and London’s economy Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden Andrew Dismore AM questioned Councillor Georgia Gould, Local Enterprise Partnership for London (LEAP) Board Member, and Chair of the London Recovery Taskforce’s Economic Recovery Working Group, about the impact of poor full fibre broadband and digital exclusion on London, brought to the fore by homeworking during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Mr Dismore said:

‘London is home to some of the most innovative tech companies in the world. But our city is also home to many people who lack either digital skills or the financial means to get online. The digital divide has been highlighted throughout the pandemic and has exacerbated existing inequalities, with 4% of Londoners over the age of 15 a offline and 11% lacking basic digital skills, leading to additional challenges for them, for example in accessing health care and job opportunities. How will the Recovery Board tackle digital exclusion which prevents some Londoners from being able to participate fully in a more digital workplace?

Cllr Gould said that digital inequality had been exposed by the pandemic, particularly with schooling, which was why it was chosen as a key mission for the recovery board to make sure every Londoner has access to the connectivity and equipment they need by 2025. This is an ambitious target because of the digital divide. Analysis is being undertaken to determine where the greatest need is, and a package of support will be put together targeting the needy. Wifi connections are also being installed outside public buildings such as libraries and community centres. Tech companies are vital to making this work, and the Recovery Board will go to them when they know what the level of need is.

Work has been going on with the most urgent tasks, such as making money available for digital skills, and City Hall has been working to get technology out to those who need it.

After the session, Mr Dismore added:

‘As more Londoners work from home, digital infrastructure such as full fibre broadband will be more important than ever in boosting our economic productivity.  Yet across London, availability of full fibre broadband is only 18.2%.

‘The CEO of London full fibre provider Community Fibre has stated that the biggest challenge that they and other providers face in extending their networks is a lack of support from building owners. The Recovery Board needs to work with building owners where broadband coverage is poor, so as to facilitate quicker installation of full fibre broadband to enable more Londoners to access high broadband speeds’