BrfQXPDCUAAG5uP.jpg-largeThe area around the Blue is to become a business improvement district (BID)  after local firms voted in favour of the proposal in an official ballot.

Nearly nine out of 10 firms backed the proposal which was spearheaded by Russell Dryden, the fishmonger in the Blue market.

BIDs are funded by a levy on business rates and provide a way for local traders to work together to promote their locality as a place to do business and to make environmental improvements to their area.

Find out more about the project on the Blue Bermondsey Business Association website.

Southwark Council is in talks with the City of London Corporation over plans to bring high-speed broadband to Rotherhithe.

News of the discussions was revealed by the council’s chief executive Eleanor Kelly at a meeting of the borough’s cabinet on Wednesday.

The City of London Corporation – the local government body for the Square Mile financial district – has been looking at ways of providing high-speed internet connections for its businesses and residents.

“At present, no operator has plans to provide a high speed, affordable broadband network across the Square Mile,” the corporation posted on Facebook in May this year.

Southwark Council hopes that by teaming up with the City, it could put a deal in place with a commercial partner more quickly and provide a more attractive proposition for prospective partners than the Square Mile could on its own.

Meanwhile the Rotherhithe Broadband Group continues to promote its social enterprise proposal for solving the SE16 broadband problem.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has invited the Rotherhithe Broadband Group to a meeting at City Hall to discuss their plans for a locally owned and managed fibre internet service.

The Rotherhithe Broadband Group’s Brian Hodge called the Mayor’s ‘Ask Boris’ radio phone-in on LBC on Tuesday morning to ask for help.

“I’m very concerned about broadband speeds in the centre of London,” said the Mayor. “It’s absolutely disgraceful that we’re not going faster.”

Mr Johnson invited Mr Hodge to meet him to discuss the issue in Rotherhithe.

He added: “I’m fed up with this broadband issue. We must get this thing sorted out.”

Businesses around the Blue are currently taking part in a ballot on the formation of a business improvement district (BID) for the area.

Southwark already has several BIDs including Team London Bridge and Better Bankside. They are funded by a levy on business rates and provide a way for local firms to work together to improve and promote their locality as a place to do business.

The Blue Bermondsey BID ballot closes on 3 July and the result will be announced the next day.

The proposed BID would span the SE1/SE16 border and stretch from Monnow Road in the west to Raymouth Road in the east.

Clements Road would form the northern boundary with the BID stretching south to encompass the City of London Academy.

Full details of the proposal are now available online.

The Rotherhithe Broadband Group has lauched its Broadband Blueprint for Rotherhithe (PDF).

The Blueprint is the result of several months of exploration of the widespread anger and frustration at the poor broadband speeds and poor stability in the area. The document was revealed at tonight’s Canada Water Consultative Forum meeting.

The Rotherhithe Broadband Group has been looking at why the broadband service to Rotherhithe is so poor and what can be done to improve it.

They said:

We have met with BT and been in contact with Virgin Media to assess what the main providers can do and to understand better the reasons for the poor broadband speeds.

We believe the problem lies with the providers of infrastructure rather than the ISPs. BT as main provider must urgently upgrade their provision to Rotherhithe. However the Group has concluded that a community-owned and -managed broadband infrastructure could deliver a better solution faster and cheaper. Such a solution would future-proof the infrastructure by providing superfast fibre to the home rather than relying on the existing copper wire system.

The Broadband Group is currently completing a feasibility study into the details of our solution. So far it shows that local investment would be better spent on a local solution rather than paid to the major provider. Locally-owned and managed infrastructure would aid the area’s regeneration, maintain the competitiveness of the area and encourage new businesses to consider Rotherhithe a place for long-term investment.

In launching the Broadband Blueprint for Rotherhithe, the group calls on the London Borough of Southwark to support us to find the necessary investment. We call on local councillors and other politicians to come behind the plan and offer their public endorsement of our blueprint. We are looking for partners of all kinds to help us make Rotherhithe a great place to get online. We invite community members with specialist skills such as legal experience or marketing expertise to join the planning group as we develop this project further. If you want to stay in touch with developments, register your details at www.energise16.co.uk and we will send you regular updates.

Pauline Adenwalla –  chair of the Canada Water Consultative Forum who chaired the working group – said: “Once again the community has shown that it has the skills and knowledge to provide community based solutions to address the issue of the local infrastructure.”

Mark Parker who convened the group said: “For years, the issue of broadband has dogged residents and small business owners in Rotherhithe.

“Now we have a chance to turn the experience round and deliver a service fit for the 21st century.”

From the latest diary of local funeral director Barry Albin-Dyer:

You may have observed that the roundabouts at the Rotherhithe Tunnel and at Crittals Corner have been signed as ‘The Albin Roundabout’ as we have sponsored them, and I have to say that it has already helped some people to find us much easier already – Look out on the news for ‘traffic approaching the Albins Roundabout’!! – Who knows??

 

Two updates this week on the ongoing saga of SE16’s painfully slow broadband.

Firstly, Andrew Campling of BT has posted a detailed response to the recent blog post by Val Shawcross AM:

As you may be aware, fibre broadband is available from our Bermondsey exchange but a fair number of existing premises in the Rotherhithe area are not included with our current deployment plans as it is uneconomic to deploy service to the area. The fundamental problem is the cost of converting the very large number of so-called “exchange only lines” in the area in order to make it practical to provide fibre broadband to those properties. We are looking at options to address this, and your Assembly Member, Val Shawcross, has already put forward some potential solutions.

He adds:

Although fibre broadband is not available to all premises in Rotherhithe, the situation is different for larger new developments, where it is often possible to provide fibre broadband during the construction phase, subject to agreement with the developers of course. So there is no reason that new developments will have a problem, however I’m afraid this will not by itself address the separate issue for the majority of the existing premises in the area.

In other parts of the UK where the market is unable to deliver fibre broadband, government funding is available to make it economically viable and we are currently investing the best part of £1bn of our own funds alongside the government to deliver faster broadband in these areas – this is on top of the £2.5bn we are investing within our commercial programme. Unfortunately state aid rules currently prevent public funding being offered in London in this way in order to benefit areas that are otherwise uneconomic for ourselves and other network providers, so this option is not currently available to address issues in areas like Rotherhithe. I know that this is an issue that Val Shawcross has raised directly with the Mayor.

Alternative options include working with larger landlords or residents associations to provide service to groups of dwellings, with joint investment by both parties. Where this takes place the subsequent network functions identically to that provided elsewhere, offers the same wide range of service provider options, ensuring residents are not tied in to a single providers and instead are able to take full advantage of any packages or other promotions that are being offered. There are no on-going obligations once the network infrastructure has been provided, with all subsequent operational aspects being undertaken by Openreach, the infrastructure business of BT Group.

In summary, whilst there is access to fibre broadband for premises connected to our Bermondsey exchange, this is not the case for all, in particular in the Rotherhithe area. I’ve outlined above some of the options that are available, notably for new sites and for larger landlords and residents groups, and we are continuing to look at options as we want to deliver fibre broadband as widely as is economically possible, so it may be that the position changes. If it does then we will update our website accordingly (www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/where-and-when/), as well as notifying key stakeholders such as Val, the local authority etc. In addition, I’ve no doubt service providers with customers in the area will be in touch directly with their customers as appropriate.

Meanwhile Simon Hughes MP has written to BT, the Mayor of London and Virgin Media.

“I have 45,000 constituents living in SE16 and it is totally unacceptable that they should be forgotten about when it comes to appropriate broadband speeds,” said Simon Hughes.

“The internet is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. Councils and governments require people to use the internet in order to access their services but then don’t provide them with internet fast enough to do the job.

“I have been informed that some of the businesses operating in my constituency have decided to pay huge amounts of money to BT in order to set up their own individual direct internet line. And I’m not talking about big conglomerates; I know of mid-sized companies which have had to look into such drastic measures in order to survive in this tough economy. It’s just simply not acceptable.”

David Hubber, Liberal Democrat councillor for the Surrey Docks ward, said “Residents of Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks find it hard to understand why they should be deprived of a good service while they are paying the same for a very poor service. We are in an inner city area, where the population is still growing and more people are working from home, so good broadband speeds are essential.”