Action needed on poor broadband, especially in rural areas & for small firms

rural broadband

Businesses across the UK, particularly in rural areas, are still without reliable broadband connections

Despite companies saying the availability of fully functional broadband is extremely important to their operations, according to the results of a survey released today by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

All companies surveyed say a reliable broadband connection is important, yet nearly one in five suffer from unreliable connections.

The findings also show that firms in rural areas are at least twice as likely to have unreliable connections as those in towns, inner cities, and suburban areas.

Smaller businesses are the most likely to suffer from unreliable broadband, with nearly a quarter of sole traders and 21 per cent of micro-businesses reporting problems.

The survey suggests that more reliable connections would allow businesses to do more. Nearly half of businesses say if the reliability of their broadband connection was improved it would allow them to use more applications, particularly cloud-based services, transfer of large files and remote server access for employees.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Business communities across the UK still report that our digital infrastructure is not fit for purpose. Throughout the country, significant numbers of companies of every size and sector lack reliable internet connectivity – a basic requirement for businesses to operate efficiently in today’s world.

“Unreliable connections stunt productivity, causing needless delays, costs and frustration. While businesses in every corner of the UK are affected, our research shows that it’s rural areas and small businesses that are most likely to suffer. An unreliable connection acts as an obstacle to growth, and puts those firms most in need of support at a competitive disadvantage.

“We’ve been calling on both providers and on government for years to fund the necessary upgrades required to deliver superfast broadband to business communities. Regulators, too, must ensure that firms actually get the quality and speeds of connection they are promised.

While we welcome recent ministerial announcements about investing in 5G technology and efforts to build a world-class digital infrastructure in the UK, there is still a long way to go in getting the basics right. The immediate focus must be on providing all companies with connections that are reliable and of sufficient speed, which would boost business confidence and encourage firms to maximise opportunities for growth, trade and investment.”

Another survey on business broadband, conducted by Beaming, the business ISP, also published today found that businesses suffered three days of internet downtime each on average during 2016, costing the UK economy £7 billion in lost productivity and extra overtime.

Beaming worked with research company Opinium, a mathematician from Imperial College and more than 500 businesses using a range of internet providers and connectivity services to quantify the impact of internet outages on UK businesses and the wider economy.

More than three quarters of businesses experienced at least one connectivity failure that prevented them from trading or accessing vital online services last year. On average, UK organisations suffered four outages each during 2016, and a wait of six hours every time for service to be restored.

It found that 77 per cent of businesses – approximately 4.2 million organisations nationwide – experienced connectivity failures in 2016. Affected organisations suffered 27 hours of lost connectivity and losses of £1,287 each on average.

Although a quarter of businesses mitigate some downtime by moving to tasks that do not require connectivity and 13 percent switch to alternative connections, day-to-day operations grind to a halt at more than a third of businesses when the internet fails. More than one in ten businesses start losing money immediately when hit by outages and almost half suffer a negative financial impact after four hours without connectivity.