Procurement · 19 July 2016

Small business broadband provision still not good enough, says cross-party inquiry

Small business broadband
Many business parks have failed to benefit from the expansion of BT’s superfast broadband

A cross-party committee tasked with assessing the performance of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has highlighted the difficulties faced by many small firm owners trying to access the broadband speeds they need to be productive.

The latest report from the MPs tasked with “establishing world-class connectivity throughout the UK” draws attention to the large number of business parks which have failed to benefit from the expansion of BT’s superfast broadband, arguing that small firm owners could be losing out due to the telecoms bosses’ commercial priorities.

“Businesses often may already be using relatively expensive dedicated leased lines and so there is a motive for the supplier not to make more generic provision available to surrounding businesses, even though FTTC [fibre-optic broadband] may be an ideal and cheaper solution,” the authors wrote.

It also highlights the broadband speed problems faced by small firms in urban areas, including those in the City of Westminster, where 58 per cent of the 20,000 business are served by telephone exchanges which haven’t been upgraded to make superfast broadband available.

“It is essential that the government and Ofcom ensure that SMEs have access to reliable and affordable broadband and are not discriminated against by providers,” committee members argued.

“The government must prioritise delivering superfast broadband to new and existing business parks and fully connect enterprise zones, many of which still do not have superfast connections. The present system is not working for many businesses.”

From December 2013 to October 2015, a government-funded Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) voucher scheme allowed small firm owners in 22 cities across the UK up to apply for £3,000 to spend on installing better quality broadband.

In June 2016, BDUK CEO Chris Townsend announced that the organization was in the process of recovering £150m underspent by local authorities during a project to provide universal access to basic broadband throughout the UK. The unused funds will be spent on increasing coverage by an additional percentage point in hard-to-reach areas.

Discover how one rural business is overcoming the challenges of slow internet to expand all over the UK.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.

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