Is small business growth in London being stunted by connectivity?

Thousands of firms in the capital may not be fulfilling their potential due to poor internet connections, according to Westminster City Council.


The capital is viewed as Europe’s leading city for technology, but less than half of the borough of Westminster has access to super-fast broadband.


In a world where technology is rife and being connected is essential, not having access to reliable connections can stunt growth.


Small businesses are the worst affected as they are often unable to afford an upgrade to premium internet and business services.


Given that SMEs account for 65% of the borough’s 50,000 businesses, the scale of the issue is difficult to ignore.


Councillors have even suggested that it means London is lagging behind other locations in Europe, many of whom have been quick to introduce super-fast broadband services.


The issue has not gone unnoticed by policy makers though, as the Mayor’s office estimates that widespread super-fast broadband access could boost the economy by around £4 billion by 2024.


BT has also announced that it is expanding its network to 32,000 more properties around central London, with a major focus on Tech City.


The firm is targeting 95% coverage for the capital by the end of 2017 and is on track to meet its goal – it does however mean that many businesses must operate without a steady connection until the work is completed.


Some £50 million will be invested into broadband infrastructure across London by BT and the firm has £3 billion set aside for its commercial roll-out across the whole of the UK.


Poor internet connections pose several issues for companies as it can damage productivity, slow sales and even impact on finances.


In the case of the latter, the issues could slow growth to the extent that a business is left needing business rescue in order to continue operations.


Depending on the sector that a company is in, they may be more adversely affected than others – for example, technology or finance firms would likely suffer more if trying to do business with poor connections.


By Phil Smith


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