UK broadband coverage ‘not up to speed’

The government’s targets for rolling out high-speed broadband to businesses across the UK need to be “much more” ambitious, according to a report by the Federation of Small businesses (FSB).

Whereas households have largely felt the benefits of increased high-speed broadband coverage, 45,000 businesses are still struggling with dial-up connections at speeds of 2 megabits per second (Mbps). This is despite the fact that 94% of small firms see a reliable internet connection as critical to their business success.

The government’s current target is to provide speeds of 24Mbps for 95% of the population and 2Mbps for the rest by 2017. The FSB argues that this isn’t ambitious enough and doesn’t support the aims of the government’s ‘digital by default’ strategy or systems such as real-time reporting of PAYE information.

The FSB is calling for:

the government to commit to delivering minimum speeds of 10 Mbps for all business premises in the UK by 2018/19, regardless of location
the government to provide minimum speeds of 100 Mbps to all premises by 2030
broadband products and services to better reflect the needs of businesses, with guaranteed minimum bandwidth levels and greater consistency between upload and download speeds
the government to prioritise the delivery of fibre-optic broadband to business communities and enterprise zones
the Competition and Markets Authority to assess the current market structure, looking for ways to boost competition amongst operators.
John Allan, the FSB’s national chairman, said:

“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. Leaving 5% of the population with a 2Mbps connection in 2017 is not good enough.

“As this report shows, 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 that are so important and where provision is especially inadequate. Otherwise firms’ growth ambitions will be blunted, while government efforts to get every firm to go ‘digital by default’ when filing its taxes online will be impossible to achieve.”

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