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London businesses suffer from poor broadband connectivity

Poor connectivity is a significant threat to capital’s productivity, says London Assembly

London skyline at sunset

The economic productivity of London's businesses is being severely hampered by poor broadband and slow 4G speeds, according to a report published by the London Assembly.

TheRegeneration Committee of the Assembly's reportsaid that the capital's broadband lags behind York, Coventry and Edinburgh despite its role as a global competitive city.

It pointed to data from Thinkbroadband that found that out of 63 UK cities at the end of 2016 London ranked 30 with 77.4% of premises covered by ultrafast broadband connections. It said that in Europe, London performs poorly, ranking 26 out of 33 capital cities in 2014 for its average download broadband speed. This compared with other UK towns and cities such as Worthing with 93.31%, Luton with 92.93%, Cambridge with 91.77% and Brighton with 91.06%.

Compared with Europe, London managed average speeds of 26.29Mbps, compared with Bucharest at 81.18Mbps, Paris at 78.15Mbps and Vilnius at 60.14Mbps.

Too many "not-spots" existed in London where there was very low or no broadband connectivity, according to the report, which pointed to Westminster, the City of London and Southwark as having particularly poor connectivity. It said this was down to problems such as the length of copper lines, the street layout or the height of buildings.

"London's economic productivity and international competitiveness face a significant threat in the form of poor digital connectivity," the report said. "The capital is poorly served, suffering from not-spots', digital deserts' and a lack of fibre connections." It said London is far behind smaller UK cities because telecommunications companies are "struggling to deliver for the capital's business and residents".

The report called on London's soon-to-be appointedchief digital officer (CDO)to confront the problem.

"Commercial viability is also more challenging for parts of London where residential density is very low," the London Assembly's report said. "Upgrading the infrastructure also means cabling, digging up roads and pavements, which are all costly and cause disruption."

It also wants the capital's CDO to work with London boroughs to tackle administrative and planning barriersto better connectivity and digital skills within London firms.

"The lack of digital skills holds back economic development. Most small businesses that use digital functions (ranging from email to cloud computing) are twice as likely to report an increase in turnover than the 30% of small businesses in London that do not have basic digital skills," said the report.

Regeneration committee chairman Navin Shah said: "London's digital connectivity is frankly embarrassing in some areas and will no doubt lead to major issues in terms of the city's global attractiveness as a place to live, work and do business. We need to act before it is too late and London's success is threatened.

"More can be done to solve London's connectivity problems and with the imminent appointment of the CDO, the mayor can provide real strategic leadership in this essential area."

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