Radio London, Connecting the not-spots

15th October 2017

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. It’s time London treated them accordingly.

Lee Perkins, CEO of M24Seven

What place does a small business have in the lion’s den that is our capital city? Recently I took part in a panel debate very close to our heart – how can we help SMEs to run a successful business, remain competitive and start fulfilling their potential? The panellists[i], representing the government, tech industry and SMEs, have all shared their experiences and highlighted the key areas of concern regarding digital infrastructure in the capital.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy, true heroes willing to give and invest it all. Without them, London will not stand tall. Job creation, trade stimulus and the creative industry will take a major hit. We all know that so why are we still debating how to provide these businesses with fundamentals such as digital connectivity?

Undeniably the first step is for the government and the industry to start working together – without collaboration there can’t be true understanding of what SMEs actually need and what the practical steps are to deliver this support.

Regulation and policies, although crucial for creating fair and safe conditions, can sometimes be too narrowly focused and restrict progress. Digital transformation of any city requires a lot of ‘future-gazing’; quite often we talk about solutions that might not have been fully developed and scaled yet and therefore we can’t fully predict the scope for accommodating these.

Something we’ve been shouting from the rooftops about (quite literally) is the amount of red tape and regulation surround the digital infrastructure deployment. The archaic ‘fibre only’ approach has left our capital in dire need of modernising. The times have changed – we need to start looking at new ways of providing connectivity and stop trying to solve a historic problem in the same way. For example, regulations and policies need to fully support wireless/radio rooftop connectivity installations – digging up roads is unsustainable and simply unnecessary.

Add planning permissions or conservation areas and something so simple becomes one long slog to provide desperate SMEs with the fundamental ingredient for running a successful business. And here’s the worst part: it’s unnecessary. We believe that collaboration between the industry, property developers and landlords is critical to creating the next generation of connected buildings.

Future-proofing our capital in this way means that we can finally start closing the digital divide, allowing small business to build and grow their companies – that’s what they do best. If, in this day and age, they still have to worry about basic essentials such as connectivity, the red flag should be UP.

London’s digital connectivity is archaic and the hand brake is on. Our mission is to ensure that small businesses in London have access to the best-in-class and we have invested millions of pounds in infrastructure to serve thousands of customers. We have already started loosening the hand break by investing in a diverse radio network build in London. We are challenging all the Goliaths out there with our game-changing resilient service that is run and maintained by our local engineers. We are bringing a new way of doing things.

We know it doesn’t have to be this difficult. We deployed our solutions in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds and Newcastle, and in terms of digital connection these cities are miles ahead of London, one of the world’s financial capitals. It is heart-breaking to see all the unfulfilled potential – both of the SME businesses and the city itself – when the answer is right in front of us (or above us, on rooftops).

When we say that we are making connected cities a reality for all, it’s not just an empty phrase. We have done this in plenty of cities in the North, and now we are in London to do exactly the same – we’re putting SMEs at the forefront of everything we do.

Lee Perkins, CEO, M24Seven; Ken Wright, Managing Director, Phoenix Artist Club; Julian McGougan, Head of Technology, TechUK; Jonathan Glanz, Lead Member for Broadband and Connectivity at Westminster City Council, and Westminster Business Council

Original article here

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