Monday 8 August 2016 6:15 am

Broadband is the lifeblood of business: It must be prioritised like any key utility

It's a story that some firms in London find all too familiar. They decide on their office location, speak to property agents, negotiate the lease and move in. Everything is ready for them including desks, power and water. There is, however, one major issue: their broadband connection isn’t in place.

It’s not even the case that their broadband is simply slow – although London did actually come last in a league table of 26 European capitals for broadband speeds, and we have been left behind by our rivals like Berlin and Dublin. For many businesses, it’s simply the case that they haven’t even got live connection when they move in.

For companies everywhere, this isn’t a minor inconvenience, but actually something that can determine whether the business survives or fails. One of the complications that arises in this situation is the ability for broadband providers to quickly gain access to a building and set up the new office with a connection. That connection crucially requires the legal permission of the landlord.

Agreeing such permissions is often a painstaking ordeal, and I’ve heard of some cases where the matter has taken a year to resolve, with workers rarely coming into the office, and having to either work from home, at an alternative site or, in some instances, round the corner in a coffee shop.

Currently, installations can take months or even a year because each one requires fresh negotiations and agreements.

To fix this problem, the City has brought together operators, landlords, developers and others working in the sector. The result is a toolkit that can be used by all parties wanting to install broadband infrastructure as it identifies the main steps required by each party to get their broadband connected.

We have done this by working alongside London’s main developers, landlords, broadband operators, property managers, government, legal firms and key trade associations. Crucially, this template version means that the parties involved in this complicated process aren’t starting from scratch.

One of the first to use it will be the major landmark development by Brookfield & Oxford Properties at London Wall Place.

Broadband is the lifeblood of successful firms. As the government and the House of Commons now recognise, it is a utility just as much as energy and water. I am sure that, if a company moved in to find their power or water not connected, it wouldn’t take as long to sort the issue as some find it does with broadband.

That is why the City has been so welcoming of mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s pledge to treat digital infrastructure with the same priority as other key public utilities. But what has also been great to see is what happens when so many different groups work together to find a solution to a longstanding problem.

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