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Manchester city centre broadband 'a mess' - trade body

Monday, December 15th 2014 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A digital business expert has sharply criticised the quality and consistency of broadband available to businesses in Manchester, and said many other parts of the UK face similar problems.

Shaun Fensom, secretary and founding director of the Manchester Digital trade association, said it wasn’t only rural businesses that had problems upgrading their broadband infrastructure.

“Allegedly, superfast broadband is generally available but it doesn’t always suit the businesses’ needs and they can’t always get it,” he told Cable.co.uk.

“I’m amazed at the number of Manchester digital members, still, who operate in the city centre and can’t get a decent broadband connection.”

He said businesses in the city were able to get gigabit fibre broadband, and get it installed quickly, but it was expensive.

“So we still have a massive problem in this country and that applies in Manchester,” added.

“I still think it’s a mess, the whole broadband access thing and digital infrastructure.

“Manchester council has been quite visionary in terms of how it’s approached that in the past but it’s been cut off every time it tries to help.

“It’s found it very difficult because of the attitude of government, the issues around state aid and so on.”

Mr Fensom said statistics that didn’t give the full picture were another problem facing businesses.

“Part of the problem is that people are looking at the statistics that are coming from the big providers and are misled by those statistics,” he said.

“I’m not saying deliberately but they are. They end up being misled by them and what appears to be a very small percentage of people unable to get access to decent connectivity – all of us on the ground know it’s a lot worse than that.”

He said small businesses experienced problems not only getting the broadband speeds they want but getting a decent level of service.

'Hopping mad'

“I once sat in a focus group with a group of businesses called together by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB),” he said.

“I think everybody including the FSB were astounded by the level of animosity towards the big ISPs that came from the businesses there.

“They were hopping mad, they were livid. When they ring up they have the same problems the rest of us have.”

Commenting on a lack of fast broadband for UK businesses, the FSB's national chairman John Allan previously told Cable.co.uk: “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.

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

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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