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By: MarkJ - 26 November, 2011 (5:55 AM)
uk superfast broadband rolloutukThe Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned that the UK government urgently needs to make clear how its rollout of superfast broadband ISP services will "avoid" growing the Digital Divide between urban and rural areas, which it believes could result in "two-tier broadband access".

The FSB fears that the current policy will result in more urban parts of the country receiving superfast broadband and rural areas being left in the "digital dark". Instead the group believes that the government should be building a "seamless broadband infrastructure".

At the same time a new FSB supported study (CMA Internet Opportunity Survey) found that 9% of small businesses cannot access broadband at all and 22% reported that at least one of their sites was unable to get "current generation" broadband. As for the rest, more than a quarter could only get speeds of 2Mbps (the government's minimum).

John Walker, Chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

"With the growth of the internet, small businesses have been able to break down some of the barriers to markets, become more efficient as well as innovate and grow. A fast, reliable broadband service is crucial for this wherever a small business may be. However, we are concerned that the divide that currently splits urban and rural areas in terms of their broadband access, will not be resolved by the Government's existing commitments.

It is important the Government sets out clear commitments and details on how it will deploy superfast broadband across the entire country up to and beyond 2015. It must ensure that businesses in all parts of the country can compete on a level playing field."
The FSB Calls for the Government to:

* Set out a clear commitment to deploying superfast broadband across the UK and say how it will avoid a two-tier country with broadband speeds and connectivity.

* Set out as quickly as possible, where the gaps in coverage are expected to be after 2015 and set out a commitment beyond 2015.

* Recognise the importance of broadband for business growth, innovation and flexible working by ensuring they are key to all policy decisions.

* Include business coverage and speed as indicators within the Government's UK broadband scorecard.

* The FSB is also calling on local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships to work with their small business communities to develop local broadband plans that reflect the needs of local businesses.
In fairness the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office, which has an initial budget of £530m (could rise to £830m by 2017), has already set out that it wants 90% of "people in each local authority area" to be able to access a superfast broadband (24Mbps+) ISP service by 2015 (the remaining 10% will sadly get a minimum 'download' speed of 2Mbps).

Meanwhile there is a growing belief that this commitment might not be enough to solve the country's problems. The internet contributed £100 billion to UK GDP in 2009, which makes broadband access incredibly valuable to both homes and businesses around the country.
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