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Why Sadiq Khan thinks ultrafast broadband is key to tackling air pollution

Pollution causes more than 9,000 premature deaths a year in London. It’s an issue Mayor Sadiq Khan hopes to tackle, and he says tech is key. But it’s about more than just electric cars and hydrogen buses.

Speaking at WeWork Moorgate this morning, Khan laid out his vision for a decentralised workforce, with ultrafast broadband providing the means for a growing contingent of Londoners to work from home.

“The air in London is a problem for people; it’s a killer,” said Khan. “Does tech provide a solution? […] If we treated ultrafast broadband as a central part of utilities, more people could work from home.”

He says the redistribution would alleviate rush-hour traffic: “When it comes to the London Plan – where people live, work, play and stay – rather than everyone coming into the centre to work, we should think more holistically.”

Khan’s comments come after the London Assembly Regeneration Committee published a report last month about connectivity in the capital. It found that the city is poorly served, suffering from “not spots” and “digital deserts”.

One recommendation is that the next London Plan should encourage borough councils to ensure a minimum broadband service. “Applications for new developments should provide upgrades to connectivity to meet what is outlined in local plans,” the report’s authors said.

Improving the capital’s connectivity will be a key objective for London’s first chief digital officer. “The [CDO] must support Londoners, especially renters, to make well-informed decisions about their connectivity needs,” the report recommends. “There is little reliable information available before moving into an area.”

City Hall is due later this summer to announce who will take on the role.