Westside BID calls for improved city centre broadband and Wi-Fi

The boss of Birmingham’s ‘golden mile’ has called for greater investment in the city centre’s Wi-Fi and broadband to help businesses on Westside.

Mike Olley, general manager of Westside Business Improvement District, hit out in the wake of an announcement by telecoms specialist Openreach.

It said that around 185,000 premises in the West Midlands will see their internet upgraded as part of a £25 billion investment.

Openreach announced that it is upgrading three million more homes and businesses – in some of the UK’s hardest to serve communities – to full fibre.

The company says its plans are fundamental to the UK government achieving its target of delivering gigabit-capable broadband to 85 per cent of the UK by 2025.

But Mr Olley said that city centre businesses were missing out on Openreach’s plans to build a new Ultrafast broadband network across the West Midlands.

He said: “Whilst Openreach wallows in self congratulatory hysteria, they are not providing an adequate service to business in the city centre.

“The speeds they offer to small business is pants and this has been the position for years now.”

Openreach said that once the upgrades are complete, premises will have access to download speeds which are 10 times faster than the average home broadband connection.

But Mr Olley said that a check on Openreach’s ‘check your address for ultrafast full fibre broadband’ – https://www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband/ultrafast-full-fibre-broadband – suggested the city centre was being left behind.

A search of the postcodes for various premises, including the BID office, Symphony Hall, and venues on Broad Street and Brindleyplace, came back with the message: “We’re sorry, our fibre products aren’t available for you yet.

“We don’t have plans to upgrade your area yet to our fibre services.”

In contrast, Mr Olley said that a search of rural locations such as the leafy suburbs of Birmingham or a village in Warwickshire revealed ultrafast full fibre speeds of up to 1Gbps.

Similarly, city centre premises are struggling with low broadband speeds, with the BID office having a range of 8-16mb, Symphony Hall 7-16mb, and Brindleyplace just 6-14mb, compared to 50mb in the same Birmingham suburb and Warwickshire locations (info sourced from https://www.bt.com/broadband/availability/)

Mr Olley added: “It shows that if you live in the leafy suburbs of Birmingham or in the delights of rural Warwickshire then Openreach looks after you very well indeed.

“However, if you are located in the beating heart of Birmingham’s central business district, Openreach ably demonstrate they have little time for small businesses.”

A spokesperson for Openreach said: “Openreach has already built an Ultrafast full fibre network to more than 4.7 million homes and businesses and we’re building faster, at lower cost and higher quality, than anyone else in the UK.

“We’re regularly announcing new locations, and although we’ve not yet reached every part of Birmingham, our build here is considerable, with more 150,000 homes and businesses reached.

“New locations are added to Openreach’s build plans regularly and there is an option at openreach.com to register details so people can be the first to hear about any announcement to build Ultrafast full fibre in a particular location.

“We’re also taking this opportunity to get in touch with the BID to arrange a meeting to discuss further.”

By Tony Collins

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