Broadband speed 'crucial for business'

COMPANIES in East Anglia are winning or losing contracts on the strength of their broadband availability, it has been warned.The new technology is now so important to businesses that they can beat their opposition if they install the most powerful broadband width.

COMPANIES in East Anglia are winning or losing contracts on the strength of their broadband availability, it has been warned.

The new technology is now so important to businesses that they can beat their opposition if they install the most powerful broadband width.

The digital divide that had existed between towns in Suffolk and Essex and rural areas has narrowed significantly, according to a new report, but a new gap is emerging related to the speed of broadband.

The report, Beyond Digital Divides?The Future for ICT in Rural Areas, was produced for the Commission for Rural Communities. The report said that some urban areas had access to a much greater bandwidth of up to eight megabits per second compared with basic broadband of up to 512 kilobits per second in rural areas. The higher bandwidth enables video conferencing and this can save time in travel and associated costs.


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Bob Feltwell, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: ''Some contracts are being won or lost by broadband width availability. Broadband and the widths are a crucial thing as far as the chamber is concerned.

''Access to broadband is as important an infrastructure as having good rail, road and plane links. The information highway is an old phrase but it does mean a lot to today's businesses especially in Suffolk where we have up and coming software businesses.

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''It is a never ending story and because we are in a global economy we have to do better and better. It is a case of well done so far but we have reached a plateau and we have to go up. Korea has fantastic broadband availability and we are still lagging behind.''

John Varley, Countryside Agency board member, said: ''We're very pleased to see the initial problem of access to broadband networks is now effectively tackled. Evidence suggests a significant demand for ICT and broadband in rural areas and these technologies could be especially relevant in the countryside, combating isolation and supporting the small and medium-sized enterprises that predominate.''

He warned that people who did not have access to the internet could become ''socially excluded''. Mr Varley said: ''Internet access points in schools, libraries, post offices or village halls can certainly help this group.

''At the same time some people will choose to opt out of the digital world, so service providers need to ensure they don't fall into the trap of thinking that using technology to provide services is the be all and end all; and with some services it's only appropriate to offer them face to face.''

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