Today I spoke up for local businesses in a Parliamentary debate about high speed broadband access in “Tech City” – a cluster of technology companies and other businesses, including in the media, public relations and property industries, east of the Old Street roundabout.
I became interested in this topic after hearing from a number of local businesses, especially those in the EC1 and EC2 areas, that they were being held back by the poor quality of their broadband connections.
A group of 38 local business contacted me last year with a petition complaining about slow, unreliable broadband connections in the area. When I took up a sample case with BT, I expected them to sort out the problem quickly, but I was shocked when they told me that even though neighbouring businesses had access to high speed broadband, it wouldn’t be commercially viable for BT to connect my constituent to the green cabinet outside his premises.
Another local company called Proudfoot TV – a small film-making company – contacted me with similar concerns. When the company had to send a two and a half minute short film to Ford, it took a staggering nine hours to do so. They also told me that, to send a high quality sound file to Covent Garden, it would be quicker to put it on a USB stick and cycle it round!
I raised the issue with Boris Johnson who, despite having said a lot of positive things about the need to improve broadband access for businesses in Tech City, didn’t give me a satisfactory reply.
And David Cameron’s government can and should be doing much more to support businesses in central London to get the quality connections they need. After all, in Tech City, a high speed broadband connection isn’t a luxury. It’s the very lifeblood of businesses.
The government needs to lean on BT to give Tech City’s businesses the tools they need to thrive. It’s just ridiculous that in this 21st century technology hub businesses are forced to work with connections less efficient than carrier pigeons.
You can read the transcript of the full debate here: