The UK’s broadband rollout plans are not ambitious enough in terms of meeting the needs of small businesses, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said in its latest report.
Members of the FSB are calling on the Government to implement several measures to ensure that current and future broadband needs for small businesses in the UK are met. The FSB argues that small business forms “the bedrock of the UK economy, critical to growth and job creation.”
FSB recommends that Government establishes interim milestones and identifies and implements necessary policy interventions. In the short term, the FSB says the Government needs to reconsider broadband offerings to small businesses in remote areas.
While it is clear that residential broadband rollout is coming along nicely, the concern for the FSB is that many small businesses are suffering from poor broadband access. For example, only 12 per cent of small businesses have a fibre-optic connection, while 35 per cent rely on a mobile connection for internet access. Amazingly, around 45,000 small businesses still rely on a dial-up connection.
The report reveals that 14 per cent of small businesses consider lack of reliable and fast broadband connectivity to be their main barrier to growth
Currently the government has a target of delivering 2Mbps broadband access by 2017 to the most out-of-reach business premises in the UK, which make up 5 per cent of all small businesses.
The FSB argues in its report that a 2Mbps target will not meet future demands. The members are effectively asking that the Government instead commit to delivering minimum speeds of 10Mbps for all business premises in the UK by 2018–19, irrespective of where they are located.
Further, the report suggests that the Government should prioritise the delivery of fibre-optic broadband to new and existing business parks and ensure that enterprise zones and clusters are fully connected
“Roll-out to business parks should be directed initially at areas where superfast broadband is absent and where the returns on investment will help to spearhead regional economic development,” the authors say.
A medium to long-term objective of delivering guaranteed minimum speeds of 100Mbps to all premises by 2030 is strongly suggested. The organisation believes that by setting an ambitious target, it will help to cement critical policy signals to investors and the market, and will demonstrate to the business community that their digital needs will be met.
“The FSB is technology-neutral; however, we envisage a combination of fixed (i.e. fibre) and mobile coverage with parallel wireless to accommodate service disruptions. The emergence of 5G offers significant potential, and although it will still require fixed backhaul – and hence is not a substitute for a fixed network – 5G is likely to play an important part in the future technology mix.”
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