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Government broadband plans: UK businesses 'not part of the agenda'

Tuesday, October 28th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

Businesses are losing out in the drive to improve broadband speeds, experts have said.

Craig Thomas, director of international field marketing at telecoms equipment firm Calix, told Cable.co.uk that businesses are being treated unfairly compared to their residential counterparts in some cases.

Mr Thomas’s comments have been backed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), whose chairman told Cable.co.uk that businesses have not enjoyed the same benefits as the residential broadband market, with many still struggling with basic functionality.

Mr Thomas said: “In the UK there’s some really interesting documents out there, but with the government stimulus and the rural divide, the digital agenda, it's about connecting that last 10%, so they're not left behind, to the rest of the UK.

“But what’s not stated is there’s money being spent to give residential users better broadband speeds, they’re passing business parks and things like that who can’t access them, they’re not allowed, it’s not part of the agenda.

“So you’re getting businesses that are being treated unfairly actually compared to residential in some cases.

“And I think that’s got to be key - a) it helps a business case, businesses are willing to pay more for a better service.

“But secondly it keeps that rural environment or that town or whatever, business community, going, so there’s a boom in both places.”

The FSB agreed, calling for the government to show ambition with its broadband targets and put business needs at their centre.

National chairman John Allan said: “Broadband is crucial in the 21st century.

“Almost all (94%) of FSB members consider a reliable, fast internet connection vital to the success of their business.

“But, while progress has been made with the residential broadband market, businesses have not enjoyed the same benefits and many struggle with basic functionality.

“For example, in areas where domestic users have high speed broadband, some businesses still struggle to send digital invoices, upload large files or even communicate with clients via the internet.

“We want to see the UK Government show ambition with its broadband targets and put business needs at their centre.

“Leaving 5% of the population with a 2Mbps connection by 2017 is simply not good enough.

“However, we also need to see more than ambitious speed based targets. Delivering fibre-optic broadband to new and existing business parks and fully connecting enterprise zones, many of which still do not have superfast connections, has to be a top priority.”

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