London faces broadband crisis

The failure to deliver broadband services in the capital could force businesses to opt for other cities

The failure to deliver broadband services in the capital could force businesses to opt for other cities

London will never be a global business hub unless it is a leader in terms of broadband, London mayor Ken Livingstone has warned.

"It is impossible to be a success without being one of the leaders in this field," he told Government and industry figures in the City last week.

"It's depressing me that we aren't achieving our broadband potential and it would be a disaster if we were not one of those leading in this respect," he said.

Eighteen years ago the Greater London Council recommended the Government co-operate with British Telecom to put in place a fibre-optic network throughout the UK, but it refused.

"If we had done that, it would have put us right at the forefront," Livingstone said.

Whatever is going wrong has got to be addressed immediately or it could spell disaster for the capital, he warned. "Failure to do that would lock us into a dilemma and other European cities would be able to attract substantial amounts of business from London," he warned.

Commenting on the penetration of broadband in the capital, Clive Haywood, head of the London region for BT retail, called on the Greater London Authority to put more of an emphasis on marketing broadband services. "If people don't know the benefits, they're not going to make that leap," he said.

But deeper broadband penetration would take place only if prices were dropped, Livingstone said, drawing a parallel with Rupert Murdoch's decision to crack the satellite market by giving Sky satellite dishes away for free.

"People are not going to buy into broadband at £40 per month if they can get normal Internet access for £6. We need a marketing campaign but prices have got to come down dramatically.

"I think you should see it as a loss leader," Livingstone retorted. "You just need to get it off the ground."

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