Demand grows for UK government to act on slow broadband

George Osborne Beijing
More than half of small and medium sized businesses say slow broadband has affected their ability to work © Flickr/HM Treasury

More than half of small and medium sized businesses say slow broadband has affected their ability to work, according to a poll by YouGov.

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Demand is growing from UK businesses for the government to act to improve slow broadband speeds across the UK.

More than half of small and medium sized businesses say slow broadband has affected their ability to work, according to a poll of 683 SMEs conducted by YouGov for Virgin Media Business.

Over a third of SMEs said they didn’t know how fast their internet connection is, while over 70 percent don’t know how much data they use each month. However two-thirds said they expect their businesses to become ‘more digital by 2020’.

There was no mention of broadband or telecoms during chancellor George Osborne’s budget last week, even though it was the main concern highlighted by businesses beforehand.

However HM Treasury’s ‘Productivity Plan’, published two days later, said the government would help to deliver 4G and ‘ultrafast’ broadband of 100 Mbps and reform planning rules for taller mobile masts.

In response to ComputerworldUK last week, several companies suggested improving internet and mobile connectivity across the UK is a vital part of boosting the UK’s relatively low productivity levels.

According to the Office for National Statistics, British workers produce 30 percent less per hour than those in France or Germany.

IT solutions firm Exponential-E’s CEO Lee Wade said the fact the UK’s mobile and broadband coverage “significantly lags behind other countries” is hampering long-term growth.

A number of companies called for the government to stump up more cash to ensure fast internet connections. It could also set targets, for example 200 Mbps in UK cities by 2020, business software startup Geniac suggested.

18 percent of British households still lack internet access despite its growing importance, according to Natalie Duffield, CEO of wireless connectivity firm intechnologyWiFi.

However, the government merely reiterated plans for superfast broadband (which it defines as over 24 Mbps) to be available in 95 percent of homes by 2017. This was revised two years ago, from an original target of 90 percent by May 2015.

“Reliable, high-speed internet can make the difference between thriving and merely surviving for the UK’s five million small and medium sized businesses. As more and more of daily life shifts online, their need for fast connections will grow,” Virgin Media Business MD Peter Kelly said.                                                                                                          

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