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East Anglia: FSB calls for Government to adopt more ambitious broadband targets

PUBLISHED: 15:49 14 July 2014

Chris Soule, chairman of the Suffolk FSB branch.

Chris Soule, chairman of the Suffolk FSB branch.

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The UK’s broaband network is not up to speed, according to a new survey by a leading organisation representing Britain’s small firms.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling for the Government to adopt more ambitious targets for rolling out high speed broadband for businesses with an estimated 45,000 firms still on dial up and many more struggling with speeds lower than 2megabits per second (Mbps).

More than nine of 10 small firms (94%) view a reliable internet connection as critical to the success of their business, says the FSB is its report, entitled “The fourth utility: delivering universal broadband connectivity for small businesses across the UK”.

But is says the current Government targets of 24Mbps for 95% of the population and 2Mbps for the remaining 5% will not meet the future demands of UK businesses, with some businesses still struggling to send digital invoices, upload large files or even communicate with clients via the internet even in areas where households have high speed broadband.

Chris Soule, the FSB’s Suffolk branch chairman said: “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. Leaving five per cent of the population with a 2Mbps connection in 2017 is not good enough.”

He added: “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.”

The FSB is calling for the Government, in co-operation with industry, to commit to delivering minimum speeds of 10Mbps for all business premises in the UK by 2018–19, regardless of location. This compares with the current target of delivering 2Mpbs for the hardest to reach five per cent by 2017.

Alongside this, it says the Government should set a medium to long-term objective of providing minimum speeds of 100Mbps to all premises by 2030.

By way of comparison, the FSB says Denmark is committed to offering universal access of 100Mbps to its citizens by 2020, while South Korea has a target of 1000Mbps (1Gbps) for 90% of its population by 2017.

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