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Small Rural UK Businesses Seek 98% Coverage of 20Mbps Broadband by 2015

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 (7:48 am) - Score 518

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has published a new report (“The Missing Links”) which claims that 60% of UK businesses in rural areas (countryside) suffer from slow broadband ISP speeds. As a result the group has called on the government to raise its superfast broadband coverage target from 90% to 98% of “rural communities and businesses” by 2015.

The Missing Links report uses data from a Panel Survey of more than 3,000 members to reveal that 63% of small rural firms are dissatisfied with the speed of their broadband connection, which compares with 48% for businesses in urban areas. Likewise 34% of small rural firms claimed to be dissatisfied with their ISPs service reliability and 24% with the value for money.

Despite this Digital Divide the same number of rural (85%) and urban (84%) businesses think their reliance on the internet will increase. Likewise 48% of small rural businesses told the FSB that they were already using Mobile Broadband (3G) or that they would use it, if only the service was available in their area.

Ofcom intends to auction new radio spectrum for superfast 4G mobile services at the end of this year, although the process has been complicated by infighting between the four main mobile operators. The FSB has called on the government to ensure that this issue is “urgently” resolved so that small rural businesses can benefit from 4G services too.

John Walker, National Chairman of the FSB, said:

These figures show that many rural firms are still unable to access basic broadband to run their business effectively. It shouldn’t matter where a business is located. With the technology we have today all firms should be able to trade overseas, throughout the UK, and from town to village. With both rural and urban businesses clearly looking to the internet to expand, it is imperative the Government takes action to close the digital divide between urban and rural businesses. We are calling on the Government to rollout superfast broadband to rural areas by 2015. The value of this is not in doubt.”

The FSB wants the government to act with a “greater sense of urgency” and points out that an increasing number of services, such as tax returns, are going “online only“. Likewise it claims that self-employment and home-based working are more prominent in rural areas.

Curiously the FSB define “superfast broadband” as being speeds of at least 20Mbps (Megabits per second), which is significantly below the 24Mbps+ (25Mbps if you prefer) set by the governments Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office for 2015 (90% cover) and the 30Mbps+ set by Europe’s Digital Agenda for 2020 (100% cover).

It’s unclear whether this 20Mbps figure is intentional, in order to make their proposal more viable, or perhaps they simply didn’t get the memo. We must not forget that part of the reason for Ofcom and the government going with a figure of 24Mbps+ is because it means that ISPs can’t claim to have resolved the problem by recycling the unreliable ADSL2+ (up to 24Mbps) tech that already exists.

The Missing Links (PDF)
http://www.fsb.org.uk/frontpage/assets/rural_report_web_final_proof.pdf

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