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Khan urges councils to bid for £400m digital connectivity cash pot

Councils in the capital have this week been invited by the mayor to bid for a fund to drive digital connectivity throughout London’s boroughs.

Writing in a letter to the 33 local authorities, Sadiq Khan also announced ambitions to transform connectivity in the capital, including delivering 4G across the Underground network by 2019.

He also revealed details about a City Hall summit designed to bring together local authorities and help them apply for government funding.

Councils can bid for the government’s £400m Digital Infrastructure Funding and get guidance on how to best use access arrangements to get more fibre in the ground and into buildings.

The cash pot marks another step in Khan’s plans, announced back in June, to make London a world-leading ‘smart city’.

The letter from the mayor, seen by PSE, stated: “World-class digital connectivity will increasingly become a vital part of achieving higher productivity for London’s business and better social and economic outcomes for Londoners.

“I recently set out my ambition for London to become the world’s leading ‘smart’ city, and above all else, that means being a connected city.

“In that context, it is reasonable to say that before too long, every household and every business in London should have access to a superfast internet connection, and that free public connectivity should be a feature of our high streets and public spaces.

“However, I know that you will be as aware as I am of the gaps in high-speed digital connectivity across London that currently exist, and the frustration this creates for Londoners and business,” Khan continued.

“I am writing to you to ask that we work together to find and expedite solutions.”

Commenting on the letter in a separate statement, the mayor argued that the capital is now a “leading global tech hub”, boasting both start-ups and major companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google.

“But our digital connectivity needs to be improved – internet connectivity is now a key public utility, and it is no surprise that some businesses see poor connectivity as a barrier to growth,” he concluded.

David Leam, infrastructure director at London First, added: “Business needs fast and reliable connections across our capital – in the office, for people working from home and when they’re on the move.

“We should be making the most of existing infrastructure, including the London Underground network, to boost speeds and deliver coverage to areas that have been left behind. But we also need London’s planners to get behind this work, otherwise our digital ambitions risk being strangled by red tape.”

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