We continue to soldier on with our campaign for full superfast broadband coverage in Westminster. In the last 18 months we have seen progress in parts of the constituency, most notably in the south Westminster area around Pimlico and St James’s, but progress elsewhere has remained infuriatingly slow. I continue to lobby BT/Openreach and central government to speed up the progress of the rollout in central London, particularly in certain parts of the constituency – I have lost count of the number of times I have raised specific cases in Belgravia, Marylebone and the West End with Openreach's officials.
Last week I met with senior management from Openreach (which, as you may know, following an agreement between BT and Ofcom has become a legally separate company, with its own board, within the BT Group) to discuss their plans for the constituency and when we can expect them to get to work in Westminster.
Openreach are currently working to upgrade services in the City and provide all of the City’s housing stock with full fibre. This work is due to be completed by the end of the year and the team that have been put together to work in the City will then come to Westminster and begin working on the rollout here. However Openreach will be doing work in Westminster in the meantime and I understand that there are conversations being had with their management, Westminster City Council and local housing bodies about these programmes.
Decisions are to be made later in the year about where the work in Westminster will begin and I shall be looking to meet with Openreach again in the autumn to discuss these plans further, as well as for an update on the work being done in the City. In order to inform Openreach’s discussions about where this work is required, I have provided them with a selection of areas where they have either been long standing historical issues with connectivity or postcodes and particular cabinets that have been brought to my attention more recently. This includes parts of Pimlico and St James’s/Mayfair which appear to have missed out on last year’s work, which I have asked to be reviewed.
Openreach have also alerted me to the Connected London scheme being taken forward by Transport for London which, as part of the project, will see hundreds of kilometres of fibre laid in the tunnels of the London Underground, creating a new fibre backbone for London which will allow for lines to be run from these new cables. I understand that the tendering for the scheme will be taking place over the summer and you can find out more by following this link: https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/business-and-commercial/creating-a-connected-london.
In the meantime I will continue to raise cases with Openreach which require looking at and adding to the list I have already provided them. I shall also be keeping an eye on the Connected London scheme, as well as details of the government’s Universal Service Obligation, which should be forthcoming later in the year.
I shall provide a further update in the autumn when I have met with Openreach once again.