CMA slams government over slow business broadband

Slow broadband speeds are threatening the efficiency of British businesses, according to a damning verdict by the Communications Management Association.


Slow broadband speeds are threatening the efficiency of British businesses, according to a damning verdict by the Communications Management Association.

Warning that a “lack of provision to meet predicted demands will frustrate companies’ e‐commerce operations”, the CMA said the government needed to formulate a national broadband strategy and take action to ensure UK broadband speeds rivalled those of other countries.

Following a survey of its members, the CMA found that over a third wanted speeds of 100 Mbps in order to be able to meet future demand for next generation internet technology, particularly over the next two years.

But a third also said they do not receive satisfactory access to internet technology, such as infrastructure, services and applications.

In the ‘Next Generation Access’ report, which surveyed 152 businesses and is described by the CMA as the first major survey of UK business broadband needs, the association found that over 57 percent of businesses want 10 Mbps speed or higher for their core business needs.

These needs include customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning software running over networks, as well as internet, voice and email. Some 38 per cent also said that next generation access would lead to improved bandwidth, speed, and quality.

A high 85 percent use fibre and 75 percent use copper. Only a fifth of copper users had bandwidths of over 10 Mbps, but over half of fibre users exceeded that speed.

A problem could emerge over pricing, however. Half of businesses said they were not prepared to pay more for next generation access. Those least likely to accept a price increase were large businesses, many of which already use high bandwidth services.

David Harrington, director of regulatory affairs at the CMA, said: “The gap between government rhetoric and formulation of policy appears to be as wide as ever.

“Back in April last year, we warned there was a limited window of opportunity over the next 12‐24 months to develop and implement a concerted and innovative approach to regulation and policy‐making that would lead to a market‐led transition to next generation broadband.”

He said there was “little sign” of any concerted approach to tackling the issue, in spite of the government having said policy making and regulation were necessary. Last September, Stephen Timms MP, then minister of state for competitiveness, said “before too long, the wider economy is going to need hight speed broadband”.

The CMA, part of the British Computer society, is an industry body for business users of communication, networks and services, and its members spend £13 billion each year on that area of technology.

In March, a separate CMA survey found that Britain’s leading telecoms managers are deeply frustrated at the quality of service provided by their suppliers.

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