Start-ups complain about poor Tech City broadband

Broadband speed

A number of start-ups in the UK's answer to Silicon Valley have complained Tech City's broadband is not fit for purpose', with some making the drastic move of leaving the area.

The companies told The Guardian that poor broadband infrastructure and policy was hampering their business growth plans, making it an unviable place to do business.

A selection of the companies working in Tech City, small ISPs and technology group Perseverance Works will be meeting with Labour MP Meg Hillier next week to discuss the problems they have been experiencing with both getting broadband installed, activated and migrated when they move to new offices.

At the beginning of the month, Hillier called the lack of decent broadband in the area a "national embarrassment". She is the MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch where many of the businesses are based and has received numerous complaints about the state of broadband in the area.

Although London isn't included in Broadband Delivery UK's (BDUK) rural broadband rollout plans, companies in urban areas are eligible for a 3,000 grant as part of the broadband connection scheme to get high-speed broadband installed.

However, Hillier and many of the businesses there say even with the grants, the installation of high-speed services has been slow, with many still waiting to reach speeds expected of a tech hotspot.

The Guardian spoke to one company - affiliate marketing service Skimlinks which moved to the area in 2013.

Chief technology officer Richard Johnson said it took five months for fibre broadband to be installed in the office.

"Our old office was vacated and demolished in the time it took to get fibre connected," he said.

"There is nothing more frustrating than rapidly needing to provision new servers and seeing your terminal take seconds to acknowledge each keystroke."

Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK, told IT Pro: We completely understand that broadband infrastructure is a critical requirement for digital business growth. Earlier this year, Tech City UK collated feedback from the digital business community on broadband issues which it shared with BT Openreach and Ofcom.

"Tech City UK has very recently been asked by BT to help promote a trial of new broadband technology in London to the digital business community. Whilst the selection process (including the type, location and number of companies involved) and implementation of the trial will be owned and managed by BT, Tech City UK's role will be to ensure that digital businesses are aware that they can apply for the trial and to ensure their needs are well understood."

BT, at an event in central London yesterday, commented on the report and passed the onus onto businesses that are apparently requesting cheaper consumer lines to be fitted rather than business services that are more suitable for high server loads and security demands.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.