Many local people have contacted me about poor broadband speeds and coverage in some areas locally, especially in Rotherhithe. Bermondsey and Old Southwark was recently ranked 595th of all UK constituencies for superfast broadband availability, with only 80% of households having coverage. The national average is 92% and it is appalling to see our part of central London so poorly served, with some wards having the slowest speeds in the capital.
In the last Parliament and during the campaign I spoke to many people who had struggled with slow broadband, including local businesses, self-employed people working from home, and students. Many people depend on broadband and it should really be seen as a new utility: an essential rather than some kind of luxury bolt-on.
Since 2015 I have been pushing BT to get better coverage and further booster cabinets installed in Bermondsey and Old Southwark. They confirmed they would be installing a further 28 cabinets in Southwark but have failed to deliver on these plans. I met with BT representatives again this week to relay concerns and push for faster and further work. They have agreed to deliver 17 further units to provide coverage for 5,000 more premises by the end of this financial year. The council is working with BT to ensure these plans are met.
I have also pressed the Government to meet its own target for coverage by investing in our area. The Chancellor has pledged an additional £400m investment in fibre optic broadband roll out as part of the Government’s Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund. I hope we see this funding deliver the broadband speeds we need here.
I will continue to update you on this matter and hope we see further improvements soon.