A day after a Welling resident’s broadband petition was featured here Bexley’s Cabinet had something to say about the
same subject. Council Leader Teresa O’Neill correctly stated that some residents now regard broadband as being more important than other utilities, “especially the younger people”.
At present 25,000 Bexley homes have no access to superfast broadband. (Over 30Mb/sec.) 75% of households are served by BT Openreach fibre services, Virgin Media services are also available in many places.
Director Paul Moore was asked to set the scene. He proposed “a strong route map to improve Bexley’s digital connectivity”. He expected it to cost 20 to 30 million pounds to implement over the next three years. It is obviously “a critical” component of the Growth Strategy allowing “digital high value businesses to come to this borough that will mean better job prospects and higher incomes”.
“The plan is critically dependent on fostering relations with the providers, critically BT and Virgin but there are a number of new providers coming to the party; facilitators and aggregators.”
“It is about a digital infill programme to connect households. There has been good work with BT and Virgin and we [now] have a better understanding of where those gaps are. BT and Virgin are committed to quite strong investment in this borough but we need to hold them to it.”
“There will be disruption to our roads and streets. It will be our focus for 2018.”
“There are providers willing to connect up new developments of 30 units or more to ensure a choice of digital providers from day one.”
The Council will be encouraging improved mobile (5G) and wi-fi coverage. “Providers will make a strategic investment in Bexley and the Council will allow concessions”. That means providers will be able to place routers on street lamp columns etc. 40 local authorities have already gone down such a route.
A resolution from 2001 based on the then current forecast of mobile related health issues inhibits such use but Cabinet will be asked to rescind the ruling.
Another plan is to push for provision of a gigabyte fibre network between public buildings. The Government has set aside £200 million and Bexley has expressed an interest in taking a share.
Cabinet Member for Finance Don Massey said the Council would have to carefully negotiate the State Aid rules.
Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) wanted everyone to know that he backed all the proposals. No one else wanted to join in and the digital infrastructure plan was voted through.