More than 10 years ago, Anthony Von Rushton saw a problem and decided to try solving it. He was helping computer manufacturer Compaq with its online advertising. Along the way he realised that data garnered from online ads rarely made sense or matched across the demand or the supply side of the market.
So along with childhood friends Russell Irwin and Beau Ner Chesluk, von Rushton created Telemetry, an online video advertising analytics business that debuted in August 2009. The company has a current market valuation of £175 million with annual turnover of £32 million. Customers included such big names as Reckitt Benckiser, Verizon and Mars.
So when the 40-year-old Von Rushton says the British Government must move faster to install high speed broadband in East London’s Tech City, his opinion probably demands attention. According to the London School of Economics report, the government’s basic broadband target of 100 percent coverage by 2015 probably will be achieved.
However, the government also has declared a goal of 100 percent access to “fast” broadband and 90 percent access to “superfast” broadband (at least 80-100 Mbps) by 2015.
The report says the government’s broadband programme needs £2.4 billion to meet those targets but has only £1.3 billion in public funding, meaning they probably won’t be met. It notes private investors will be expected to make up that difference.
The report, sponsored by customer management software company Convergys, notes that increasing broadband penetration by 10 percent can increase gross domestic product by as much 1.5 percent per capita.
“That is unacceptable and punitive to UK-based UK start ups” Von Rushton said.” At this rate we will be looking to relocate in the US where innovation is truly recognised and celebrated.”
“If the government had left the broadband programme to private investors from the start, they might have made other business decisions. Now, with those resources committed elsewhere and the expected infrastructure delayed, those same investors are left in a bind. What’s more, I still can’t get e-mail on my phone during my commute due to subdued mobile data networks. I lose 50 minutes of productivity per day to US corporations via this black hole of communication.”
The government’s vision is creating a gathering place for high tech companies rivalling California’s Silicon Valley. Officials talk about creating the conditions necessary to grow and develop the next Facebook, Google or Oracle.
Established tech companies such as Cisco, Intel, Google and Facebook already have moved into Tech City or plan to do so but the long-sought startups, which the superfast broadband would help develop, remain elusive.
Von Rushton isn’t the only one who recognises this deficiency. Newly appointed Culture Secretary Maria Miller said in September: “The government means business and we are determined to cut through the bureaucracy that is holding us back.”
She noted that “superfast broadband” is key to increasing economic growth yet planning and other governmental red tape is hampering the effort. Proposed changes include faster approvals for telecom companies to cut up streets and install high-speed cable.
Two years after the launch of the Tech City initiative, Intel, Google, Cisco, Vodafone, Airbnb and Yammer have invested capital. Facebook is opening its first engineering campus outside of the U.S. The number of tech companies in the area has increased an estimated five-fold. However, the East London tech hub generally is regarded as still a work in progress.
Despite the government’s ₤114 million initiative announced in September, which includes £25 million for London, the quality of the city’s broadband leaves something to be desired. Startups also have had difficulty getting providers to hook them up.