FSB backs calls for improved broadband for small firms

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FSB backs calls for improved broadband for small firms (image credit: iStock/srdjan111)

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the publication of a new report from the cross-party Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that has highlighted a growing need to improve the provision of broadband services to the nation's smaller businesses.

According to the Select Committee's findings, the UK broadband sector is currently facing serious criticism regarding the ongoing rollout of superfast services to many areas of the country, made worse by weak levels of investment and an unwillingness to prioritise the needs of many small business operators despite calls for inclusion in superfast rollout plans.

This latest report backs up the findings of last year's FSB Telecommunications Report, which highlighted the powerful link between online connectivity and productivity, as well as the growing number of businesses that are calling out for this service in their area.

The Select Committee stated that digital connectivity has become vital to the lives of modern Brits and it is therefore unsatisfactory that myriad small businesses across the UK remain unable to reap the considerable benefits of being online and operating in the digital fast lane.

Furthermore, while the government's broadband programme, BDUK, continues to be on track to achieve its target of 95 per cent coverage by the end of 2017, this is now a figure that is grossly outdated and is in need of revision.

Indeed, the report summarised that the UK continues to lack the appropriate level of investment in broadband infrastructure to leverage the many benefits of this technology as widely as it possibly can and should be doing.

As a result, the report stated: "We believe that the government is right to follow Ofcom's advice to set the Universal Service Obligation (USO) initially at a minimum of 10 Mbps. However, the need for an increase in the USO minimum download speed to 30 Mbps by 2022 is entirely foreseeable."

At the same time, the report suggested increasing the scope of the USO to cover all business premises, as well as domestic buildings across the country. It is believed that in order to achieve this goal, however, a considerable increase in investment from present levels will be required.

Responding to this latest call for enhanced broadband connectivity across the UK, FSB national chairman Mike Cherry stated that a large number of smaller companies across the UK are making use of the latest digital technologies, but without access to the best broadband infrastructure, there is considerable potential going to waste.

"Poor quality of service is a major barrier to firms who want to do more online - we need a sustained focus on raising minimum standards," Mr Cherry argued. "Access to superfast broadband is an ongoing issue, with business premises and business parks continuing to lag domestic rollout.

"A stretching [of USO to include] small business premises is desperately needed to deliver acceptable levels of speed for all consumers and to put the UK in the digital fast lane."