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FSB Calls for UK Broadband to be a Universal Service Obligation

Posted: 21st May, 2010 By: MarkJ
fsb ukThe UK Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the new coalition government to make "basic broadband speeds" a Universal Service Obligation (USO) to help small firms grow and strengthen recovery. This is as opposed to it being a soft "commitment" (USC), as currently appears to be intended.

In its new report 'Broadband: Steps for an Incoming Government' the FSB raises concern that small businesses are not trading online as efficiently as they could due to a lack of fast and reliable broadband, and urges Ed Vaizey, the newly created Broadband Minister, to swiftly put measures in place to ensure a reversal of this.
The FSB proposes the following measures, including:

• Ensuring the Broadband Minister has direct oversight of the roll-out, improvement and maintenance of broadband and puts these plans in place immediately.
• Making broadband an essential service, similar to those of gas, water and electricity.
• A stronger role for the telecommunications ombudsman and Ofcom who must be able to rule directly against all service providers, their contractors and group companies.
• Incentivising small businesses to win contracts for the installation, maintenance and ownership of providing broadband services.
The FSB states that small firms – especially in rural areas - are not getting the service they are promised by their ISP. Its research shows that nearly a third of small firms were offered between 2-4Mbps, however 94% said they felt their service providers' offerings were failing their advertised claims.

John Walker, National Chairman at the FSB, said:

"The lack of broadband is unacceptable in the 21st Century. The UK is lagging behind and as a result small businesses – especially in rural areas - cannot develop their business online which is vital for the growth of the UK's economy.

Small firms are being misled by their service providers which are promising broadband speeds that they are simply not delivering. Broadband is not a luxury but an essential service. We welcome the creation of a Broadband Minister but he must act quickly and efficiently to ensure the universal service commitment for basic broadband speeds is an obligation if the country truly wants to become a global competitor. Until then the UK's 4.8 million small businesses will be left lagging behind as well."

The organisation also wants to see a stronger role for the Telecommunications Ombudsman and OFCOM. They believe that the Ombudsman must be able to rule directly against all ISPs, their contractors or group companies without exemptions.

In addition the FSB wants customers to be able to cancel all contracts at any time without penalty if their service does not meet the written contracted service, which must be specified. That's unlikely to happen because many ISP rely on contracts and exit fees to keep their prices low.

The FSB believes that putting in place super-fast broadband could create 60,000 jobs and add £18 billion to UK GDP.
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