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Politcians and businesses slam ‘national embarrassment’ of Tech City broadband

PUBLISHED: 11:29 03 July 2014

Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, spoke today at PMQs

Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, spoke today at PMQs

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Businesses and politicians have slammed the government’s plans for Shoreditch’s Tech City after it emerged a third of its businesses are still without high-speed broadband following a two-year battle.

Despite small villages up and down the country having the service, large swathes of Hackney are still without fast internet, with Labour MP Meg Hillier branding it a “national embarrassment”.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport told the Gazette there are £3,000 grants available to help businesses access high-speed internet.

But this has been described by Ms Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, as “a joke”.

Dubbed Tech City by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010, Shoreditch’s Silicon Roundabout has been fighting ever since to get the much-needed service to its growing number of start-ups and small businesses.

Ms Hillier said it is not just businesses that are being affected.

She said: “I’ve had letters from constituents who work from home and they need access to high-speed internet. This is a joke, frankly.

“You can’t just throw money at a problem, it’s the infrastructure that needs changing.”

She added: “BT have done very well out of the public purse.”

Ms Hillier’s comments came after Andrew Dismore, chairman of the London Assembly’s Economy Committee, said it was “in BT’s interest to constrain the market” and that statutory regulations needed to be imposed.

During a heated exchange in Parliament last week, Ms Hillier demanded to know what David Cameron would do to fix the issue, which had plagued businesses across the borough.

She told the Commons: “They’ve had breakfast with Boris, tea at No. 10 and dancing with the Business Secretary, but small businesses in Shoreditch still cannot get super-fast broadband.

“This is now a national embarrassment.”

The Prime Minister said that the newly-appointed Business Secretary Sajid Javid is “working very hard” to fix the problem and that he would ensure Hackney was on his list.

A petition is already doing the rounds online calling on London Mayor Boris Johnson to provide affordable fibre-optic broadband to the area as soon as possible.

Rohan Sinclair Luvaglio, from mobile phone app company Bizzby, said: “This isn’t only about broadband. If you look at the bigger picture, there is no tangible support for serious start-ups.

“The basic ingredients to build an entrepreneurial start-up ecosystem do not yet exist in the UK, particularly in Tech City.”

Ms Hillier also mentioned Tech City company Moo.com, which had to wait more than a year for connection.

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