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A significant improvement in broadband speeds in Westminster is required to prevent the city's businesses from falling behind both domestic and international rivals, it has been claimed.

According to Westminster City Council (WCC), firms in the area need access to better broadband speeds, as current connectivity is lagging far behind what is required in what is effectively the seat of the UK government.

It follows the publication of a new report by telecoms regulator Ofcom, which revealed that just 47% of the city’s premises have access to superfast broadband of 30Mb or higher, leaving more than half with insufficient services.

A poll carried out by the City Council's for its Business Survey in 2012 identified that 43% of firms in the city conduct the majority of their business online; a figure that will have risen significantly since then, meaning that superfast speeds are now more important than ever.

As such, WCC is now echoing a report from the Environment Policy and Scrutiny Committee, which pointed out that Westminster is host to 49,700 enterprises, 65% of which are small or medium-sized firms.

"Connectivity is especially important to cities such as Westminster, with a high proportion of high growth firms in diverse sectors such as the media, design, digital and telecommunications," the report stated.

The problem is already being partially addressed through initiatives such as the government’s Connection Vouchers scheme, while BT is also trialling a new VDSL based form of Fibre-to-the-Basement (FTTB) and Fibre-to-the-Remote-Node (FTTrN) in pockets of central London. However, WCC says these will only help to plug small gaps, with more extensive work required to bring broadband speeds in line with those enjoyed by business in other major urban areas across the UK and the rest of the world.

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