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Business broadband “isn’t up to speed”

Business broadband “isn’t up to speed”

Category: Business Broadband

Updated: 14/07/2014
First Published: 14/07/2014

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

We live in a distinctly digitised world these days. Everyday tasks are becoming increasingly dependent on the likes of internet connections and smartphone apps, and trying to run a business without this kind of technology will soon be pretty much impossible. That's why it's so surprising that a lot of smaller companies are coping without high speed broadband – and it's why the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling for action.

Research from the FSB has found that an estimated 45,000 firms are still on outdated dial-up systems, while many more are struggling with speeds of less than 2Mbps – almost impossible for a lot of people to consider. "It is clear that while the residential market may be seeing the benefits of high speed broadband, this is often not the case for the business community," said the FSB's release, and is why the FSB has asked the Government to adopt a more ambitious target for rolling out high speed internet to UK businesses.

As it stands, the Government has a target of 24Mbps for 95% of the population and 2Mbps for the remaining 5%. However, there are concerns that this won't meet the demands of UK businesses – particularly with 94% of small firms surveyed saying that a reliable internet connection is critical to the success of their business. A lot of businesses still have difficulty sending digital invoices, uploading large files or communicating with clients online, even in areas where households have high speed broadband, so in order to help ensure the continued growth of UK SMEs it's important that this area is addressed.

John Allan, National Chairman of the FSB, commented:

"The fact that we have around 45,000 businesses still on dial-up is unacceptable and many more throughout the country, even in London, are receiving poor service. Evidence from our members shows this clearly is a problem affecting all corners of the UK, rural areas and cities alike. While progress has been made with the residential market, businesses have not enjoyed the same benefits, which is holding back their growth. We therefore want to see the UK Government show ambition with its broadband targets and put business needs at their centre."

The FSB surveyed its members to find out what they wanted from the Government and its internet promises. To summarise, their members want:

  • The Government to commit to delivering minimum speeds of 10Mbps for all business premises in the UK, regardless of location, by 2018–19. This compares with the current target of delivering 2Mbps for the hardest to reach 5% by 2017.
  • The Government should set a medium to long-term objective of providing minimum speeds of 100Mbps to all premises by 2030.
  • Business should be at the heart of the rollout of high-speed broadband and should be offered, for example, guaranteed minimum bandwidth levels, reliable connections and affordable prices.
  • The UK's digital infrastructure needs to be "future-proofed".
  • The Government should prioritise the delivery of fibre-optic broadband to business communities, such as retail parks, and ensure that firms located in enterprise zones are fully connected – many are still not.
  • The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to conduct, at the request of Ofcom, an assessment into the current market structure, exploring options to boost competition amongst operators and support new entrants into the infrastructure market.

It's hoped that the Government will take on board these suggestions to ensure that all firms have full internet connectivity, and therefore the chance to grow successfully. John Allan concludes:

"Too many of our small firms are held back by the current state of the broadband market in the UK. We want Government to oversee the creation of world-beating digital infrastructure that will enable businesses to grow, innovate and compete in international markets. This means not only raising download speeds but also upload speeds, which are so important and where provision is especially inadequate, otherwise firms' growth ambitions will be blunted."

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