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Although business broadband take-up has doubled over the last year most UK firms - some 60 per cent - are still struggling along without high-speed internet access, according to research released today.

The British Chambers of Commerce's Business Broadband survey, which polled 4,000 UK businesses across all sectors and company sizes, found that the percentage of companies with a broadband internet connection has doubled from 19 per cent to 39 per cent over the last 12 months.

However, one third of those firms without broadband do not have the technology because no service is available in their areas. These companies indicated they would to acquire a connection as soon as it becomes available.

Half of all survey respondents said broadband is critical to their commercial success. Over 60 per cent of all companies polled said more effective communication was the biggest benefit of broadband. Improved business productivity is the next most important benefit, chosen by 46 per cent.

"Broadband is taking hold in Britain," said Isabella Moore, president of the British Chambers of Commerce.

"Even so, far too many businesses are still viewing broadband as just a faster narrowband connection. Government and industry must now focus on ways in which to improve broadband users' understanding of its full potential."

According to the poll, which was sponsored by Oracle and Cisco Systems, cost savings are a more significant benefit than improved productivity for manufacturers, retailers and distributors: 45 per cent of all companies cited cost savings as a benefit of a broadband connection.

The survey also suggests that speed - rather than rich content - is seen as the core benefit of a broadband connection by British businesses. Two-thirds of the open comment responses cite speed as a benefit of broadband while less than two per cent mention rich content services such as video conferencing and internet telephony.

Stephen Timms MP, Minister of State for eCommerce and Competitiveness added: "With over two million broadband users in the UK its role in ebusiness is proving an essential tool in driving economic success for SMEs, especially at local level." ®

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