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Labour MP blasts BT for London’s fibre broadband blackspots

BT’s slow broadband in London’s start-up scene Tech City has been branded a national disgrace by the local MP. 

Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, described the lack of high-speed internet for businesses and residents in the area as a joke. 

This is despite BT spending millions of its own money on upgrading two-thirds of the connections Openreach network from old copper lines to fibre-based FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) and FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) lines. 

On yer bikes: Parts of London's glitzy Tech City still harbour broadband blackspots
On yer bikes: Parts of London’s glitzy Tech City still harbour broadband blackspots

The boundaries of ‘Tech City’ aren’t officially marked out on a map anywhere but it’s generally taken to refer to the East End of London and the area around Old Street – the so-called Silicon Roundabout – in particular. In 2010, the Government announced plans to help develop the area, already noted for the concetration of tech firms and start-ups located there. 

Hillier told local paper Islington Gazette: “I’ve had letters from constituents who work from home and they need access to high-speed internet. This is a joke, frankly.

“You can’t just throw money at a problem, it’s the infrastructure that needs changing. BT have done very well out of the public purse.”

Hillier singled out custom business card makers Moo.com, who had to wait more than a year for a superfast connection, as an example. 

BT has won every single contract from the BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) scheme so far, which has seen BT match government and local authority funding with its own cash. BDUK schemes are targeted primarily at rural and suburban areas, so it’s unlikely that urban London would have ever benefitted from that money anyway. 

Spokespeople for BT argued that Tech City firms are already well served by lease lines, which provide speeds of up to 10Gbps. These are expensive and are business-only products; you won’t be able to get a 10Gbps service in your trendy Dalston apartment. 

They’re also not available everywhere in Tech City area either, although BT says this will change soon. BT’s spokesperson said: “Fibre availability will rise to more than three quarters of premises over the coming months, whilst the area may benefit from further fibre expansion as a result of our additional £50 million investment in cities.

“As for Hackney, more than three quarters of all premises in the area already have access to fibre, with even more set to benefit over the coming months, so the suggestion that vast swathes of the borough are excluded is simply not true.” 

Most homes will be able to sign up for services like BT Infinity, TalkTalk Fibre or Sky Fibre. Businesses will be able to get leased line services – either pure fibre or a mixture of fibre and copper from BT. 

BT is also participating in the Government’s Connected Voucher Scheme in London, which gives businesses up to £3,000 off the cost of having fibre broadband or high speed services installed. 

Other firms in the area can also tap into EE’s 300Mbps 4G network – provided they’ve got the right kit

Following Hillier’s complaints, both the Prime Minister and new DCMS secretary Sajid Javid said they would promise to look into the situation. 

While they’re at it, they might want to turn their attention to other bits of the capital. Patchy superfast coverage isn’t just limited to Tech City. This august journal has problems getting a decent connection in central London back in 2012.

When we saw that superfast broadband wasn’t available from the nearest exchange, we opted to dig up the roads and go with Virgin Media instead

Two years later our local exchange, that lies in the shadow of the BT Tower, still hasn’t been enabled for FTTC, let alone FTTP. 

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