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Manufacturers Criticise “Poor” National UK Broadband Infrastructure

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 (8:42 am) - Score 1,082

A new report from the EEF trade association, which claims to champion manufacturing and engineering in the United Kingdom and Europe, has highlighted the problem of “deteriorating confidence” in wide areas of the country’s infrastructure, especially the road networks, broadband connectivity and energy supply.

The report includes a survey of British manufacturing and engineering companies, although it’s not clear how many were actually involved. Never the less 40% of companies view the national broadband network, which is mostly dominated by BT and Virgin Media’s infrastructure, as being “poor” or “very poor“. Similarly 45% of companies said they would put investment in broadband infrastructure among their top three priorities (15% said it would be their no.1 priority).

Meanwhile the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme has already put around £1.7bn+ of public investment into improving related infrastructure, which aims to make “super-fast broadband” speeds (24Mbps+) available to 95% of the country by 2017 (mostly via BT contracts).

But BDUK has tended to focus on residential areas and there has been criticism that some business locations are being shunned in order to protect existing revenue sources, such as lucrative leased line solutions. Separately the Connection Vouchers scheme offers grants of up to £3,000 to help SMEs connect to a superfast broadband service (here), although this is only available in some cities and can’t always cover the full cost of a new leased line.

Apparently manufacturers are said to feel that the current high speed broadband programme is being “rolled out at a slow pace with poor communication and a lack of clarity on when upgrades will take place“. The EEF said that a more “hands on approach is needed in the remainder of this Parliament to provide certainty on when investments will be made“.

Terry Scuoler, EEF CEO, said:

These results highlight widespread concern that the quality of business critical infrastructure is declining rather than improving, with the deterioration of the road network of particular concern. Roads are the backbone of the economy and the glue that holds the rest of the transport network together, with four-fifths of manufacturers saying they are critical to their business operations. Similar concerns exist about our energy and digital networks.

The message from manufacturers to the Chancellor for the remainder of this Parliament is clear, complete the job on vital roads, energy and broadband projects. As far as Industry is concerned these are far more important than redirecting planning resources to new aspirational projects.”

Broadly the EEF seeks a commitment from the Government to ensure that the whole of the UK can access “high speed broadband and effective mobile networks as soon as possible“, which they’d like to see unveiled as part of the Chancellors Autumn Statement during early December 2014. It’s also a view shared by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The EEF might thus be pleased to see the Government’s push for a national mobile roaming solution (here) and not to mention our expectation that more funding for broadband will be unveiled as part of the Autumn Statement 2014 (here), which is due to be held on 3rd December 2014. Precisely what form this will take and whether or not it will be another investment for the seemingly sole benefit of BT remains to be seen.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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