London mayor makes push on broadband connectivity

‘Not Spot Team’, support for local authorities and mobile connections on new railway line all included in package to improve provision of fibre and mobile around the capital

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has set up a ‘Not Spot Team’ as part of a package of measures to improve digital connectivity across the capital.

London aerial shot down riverHe has also announced an effort to help local authorities apply for relevant government funding and manage the legal arrangements to get more fibre into the ground and in buildings. 

The move has been made in response to persistent concerns about parts of London, such as pockets of the City, Westminster and Rotherhithe, where broadband is slow and unreliable. This is despite the city being regarded as Europe’s leading technology hub, with over 40,000 digital technology businesses and providing a base for many global tech companies.

The Not-Spot Team will work with local authorities and broadband providers to identify the most problematic connectivity spots and find ways of improving the situation.

Funding and guidance

Khan is also writing to all local authorities in the capital to encourage them to bid for shares of the Government’s Digital Infrastructure Funding, and providing guidance on how best to use access arrangements, known as 'wayleaves', to get more fibre in the ground and into buildings. These legal agreements are used to grant access to land or buildings for providers to deploy and manage digital infrastructure.

This can often be problematic and time-consuming in agreeing terms, but the Greater London Authority has already supported work of the City of London Corporation to develop a standardised wayleave agreement, and now intends to encourage its use across the city.

The mayor is also planning a summit – named the Digital Connectivity Funding Forum – to bring together London’s local authorities and support them in applying for funding, discuss the work of the Not-Spot Team and share ideas and best practice on connectivity.

Another measure will involve the Elizabeth Line – also known as Crossrail  – having mobile coverage when it becomes operational through central London in December 2018. This should provide continuous phone coverage and internet access as trains move through the line’s tunnels.

Transport assets

In addition, Transport for London is planning to seek feedback from the industry on how it can best take advantage of its underground and street level assets to improve connectivity while also generating a commercial return.

Khan said: “London is now a leading global tech hub, with thriving start-ups alongside major companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google. But our digital connectivity needs to be improved – internet connectivity is now a key public utility, and it is no surprise that some businesses see poor connectivity as a barrier to growth.

“If we are to remain competitive in the global economy, we need to ensure every Londoner is able to access a fast and reliable digital connection. That means working to boost connectivity across London – tackling not-spots, delivering connectivity in the London Underground and working with local authorities to provide digital infrastructure fitting of a global tech hub.”

David Leam, infrastructure director at business group London First, said: “We should be making the most of existing infrastructure, including the London Underground network, to boost speeds and deliver coverage to areas that have been left behind. But we also need London’s planners to get behind this work, otherwise our digital ambitions risk being strangled by red tape.”

Picture by Mai-Linh Doan, CC Attribution Share-Alike 2.0 France through Wikimedia