The Federation of Small Businesses, or FSB, has criticised the government for an unambitious and inadequate broadband policy. "If small businesses are to thrive and prosper and contribute to a growing economy, they need universal access to what is now considered the fourth utility.” states an FSB report on the current state of broadband in the UK.
The UK government currently aims to have 95 per cent of the country receive 24Mbps (megabits per second) or higher, while the remainder should receive at least 2Mbps, by 2017. The FBS report declares that this is not nearly ambitious enough, citing various facts and figures including:
- 45,000 small businesses are still using dial-up connections
- 94 per cent of small business owners feel that their internet connection is vital for the health and well-being of their company - And that only 15 per cent of small business owners are happy with their broadband connection
The government and former telecoms monopolist BT have hit back, claiming that the report does not portray a true reflection of the state of UK broadband. BT stated that up to 73 per cent of British businesses can, in fact, access fibre broadband, including some who claimed in the report that they could not. The BT spokesman added that they are confident that this figure will rise to 90 per cent in less than two years. BT did acknowledge that “many” businesses were still waiting for broadband and that some these comprised the 4 per cent of FSB members that responded to the survey.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport also said that the “report does not reflect the real picture” although he did concede that it, “rightly highlights the growing importance of broadband to businesses in the digital age”. He added that in rural areas, over 600,000 businesses and homes could now access superfast broadband, and that this figure is growing by around 30,000 per week.
The report highlights the aims of other nations (Finland is aiming for a baseline speed of 100Mbps by 2015, while South Korea is aiming for 1Gbps (gigabits per second) by 2017) to point out the lack of ambition in the UK’s current policy. The report also mentioned concerns with the way broadband has been rolled out across the country.