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18 December 2018

Small business productivity still held back by poor broadband

Poor broadband and mobile coverage are still holding small businesses back, particularly in rural areas.

The annual Ofcom Connected Nations report shows that while superfast availability has increased, only 90% of small businesses are able to access superfast speeds (download speed of at least 30 Mbit/s) - an increase of only 1% on last year.

The statistics show 18% of rural small businesses still need a decent connection (download speed of 10Mbit/s), which would be provided by the Universal Service Obligation (USO).

While 83% of urban homes and offices have complete 4G coverage, the report shows rural premises get less than half that (41%). In some remote parts of the country, there is no coverage at all.

Responding to the new figures, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says it is imperative that small businesses are connected to a basic level of broadband without delay.

Last year FSB welcomed the Government’s decision to deliver the USO. With further consultations to finalise details ongoing, small businesses will only be able to request a connection at the end of next year. While this delivers the Government’s commitment to be in place by 2020, it seems like an unnecessary delay, particularly as technology quickly moves on.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “Access to fast and reliable broadband and good mobile signal is vital for small businesses. These latest statistics demonstrate that more work needs to be done so that small businesses across the UK don’t left behind when it comes to their connection.

“There are still so many firms coming up against agonisingly slow speeds – and when your business relies on this connection, it’s not only frustrating, but impacts on your ability to do business. This is particularly problematic in rural areas where coverage is typically poorest.

“With the UK already lagging behind similar European countries in terms of the availability of full fibre services, and the consultation into the USO still rumbling on, there’s still lots of work to do to bring services up to scratch.

“Most businesses want to embrace digital technology to compete and enhance their productivity, but to do this they need a decent connection and good quality service.”