High-speed Broadband should be available to all SMEs

High-speed Broadband should be available to all SMEs

High-speed Broadband should be available to all SMEsThe Government’s plans to make ‘minimum’ speed broadband available to all businesses by 2012, will leave many small firms with slow, inefficient Internet access, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned.

Earlier this month, the Government announced in its Digital Britain White Paper that it will provide the infrastructure for all UK businesses to be able to access minimum speed broadband (2 Mbps) by 2012.

FSB chairman, John Wright, said:

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to ensure universal access to fast broadband, but our research shows that a third of small businesses already have 2Mbps broadband, yet struggle to do core, day-to-day business activities,”

“More than half of small businesses rely on the Internet for up to 50% of their annual turnover, yet simple tasks such as emailing, marketing, buying and selling are time-consuming because their broadband speeds are letting them down.”

In the Digital Britain White Paper, the Government also announced plans to give 90% of the population access to super-fast broadband speeds of at least 40 Mbps by 2017. The initiative will be funded by a levy of 50 pence per month charged to every household with a fixed telephone line.

“It’s not good enough for the Government to say that 90% of the country will be covered by super-fast broadband by 2017 – it should be 100% and it should be implemented sooner,” said Wright.

A spokesman for the Commission for Rural Communities warned that rural firms will be left behind by urban competitors with faster Internet access.

“Urban areas will have next generation access of up to 40Mbps much sooner than 2017 and rural areas need those speeds as much as they do – a third of people that work from home are based in rural areas. We need to make sure rural businesses aren’t left playing catch-up.”

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) spokeswoman, Una Flynn, said that the Government does not intend to impose a limit of 2Mbps speeds on rural areas.

“The 2Mbps for everyone is not the scale of our ambition. The idea of having a universal service is just to create a floor so nobody can have less than that.”

Flynn justified Government plans to levy households with landlines so that rural areas can access broadband, stating that there is no commercial benefit for Internet providers to invest in remote areas so it has to be subsidised with public money.

“The 50 pence per month levy will go into a pot collected by Ofcom and telecommunications firms can then tender for some of that – this will make it as attractive for BT and Virgin to invest in the Isle of Skye as it is for them to invest in London.”

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