"Not fit for purpose" UK broadband is damaging business

Nassos Stylianou
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There are still 45,000 small businesses that rely on dial-up (Source: Getty)

The UK's broadband is not up to scratch, with thousands of businesses still unable to reap the benefits of high speed internet.

A new report published by the Federation of Small Business (FSB) says that broadband targets in the UK are not ambitious enough and will not meet the future demands of UK businesses, as some small firms continue to struggle to communicate with clients online.

While residential areas have seen major improvements, companies located in rural areas face serious difficulties with often poor or non-existent coverage, a problem which serves to exacerbate regional economic imbalances. Many urban or semi-urban businesses also face major issues, according to the report.

"Too many small businesses in the UK are unable to access fixed and mobile broadband services that are ‘fit for purpose’ and meet their commercial needs. Lack of access reduces productivity, stifles innovation and restricts the ability of British firms to grow and compete in global markets," says the report.

The report finds that 15 per cent of small firms in the UK say they are very satisfied with broadband provision, while a quarter say they are fairly or very dissatisfied.

A study by Ofcom earlier this year found that the UK has shot ahead of its European rivals with the lowest number of non-internet users and the highest take up of broadband, however the FSB's report stresses that a number of businesses have difficulty in transferring files and delivering goods and services online.

"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," said FSB chairman John Allan.

According to the FSB, there are still approximately 45,000 small businesses, one per cent of the total number of small companies in the UK, that still have to rely on a dial-up connection to go online.

The government’s current broadband policy focuses on a target of delivering bandwidth speeds of 24 megabits per second (Mbps) to 95 per cent of premises by 2017, and 2Mbps to the remaining five per cent.

By contrast, Denmark plans to have a baseline speed of 100Mbps by 2015.

The FSB argues that the targets should be revised and calls for a new ambitious national broadband strategy to deliver universal connectivity to be drafted, guided by a "new commitment to deliver a guaranteed minimum speed or ‘service level floor’ of 10Mbps to all premises in the UK by 2018-19, regardless of location".

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