Manufacturers: Forget speeds, we need reliable, resilient broadband
The UK’s ongoing focus on broadband speeds could distract policy makers from delivering what the country’s manufacturing industry really needs, the EEF has claimed.
The organisation, which represents thousands of British manufacturers, has today set out its response to the government’s review of business broadband.
It says manufacturers’ primary focus is on creating cost effective, reliable and resilient digital infrastructure.
Technology must also be future-proofed as the sector is on the cusp of a “fourth industrial revolution” that will see greater integration of physical production and internet-enabled technologies, the EEF said.
Research by the EEF found that 91% of manufacturers believe high-speed broadband to be as important as electricity and water.
Broadband infrastructure is also rated as the second highest priority for investment, behind motorways.
But the EEF’s findings show that speed isn’t everything. The need for reliable and resilient connections has led 34% of manufacturers to invest in a dedicated leased line.
This is despite the fact it pushes them down the queue for fibre broadband upgrades, the EEF said.
Chris Richards, senior business environment policy adviser at EEF, said: “Britain has clearly benefitted from the move to faster broadband, which has transformed our economy.
“But there’s still much more to be done. The legacy of focussing on speed has served its purpose and it’s now time to do a stocktake on what we need going forward.
“For manufacturers this is clear – we need a more reliable, resilient and future-proofed network to match the fundamental importance digital infrastructure plays in our modern economy.”
Mr Richards said the UK needs a more pervasive fibre rollout – BT’s fibre to the premises rollout has so far reached 1% of premises – to improve the reliability of its digital infrastructure.
“We also need confidence that the government will stand behind that strategy to make sure it’s delivered," he said.
“The reality is that if we don’t do this now, in five years’ time we won’t be arguing about where we are in the international league tables – we won’t even be in them.”
Launching the business broadband review in February, business secretary Sajid Javid said he wants every business, regardless of size, to benefit from access to fast, reliable connectivity.
“Developing new technologies, an extensive digital infrastructure, vibrant competition and consumer choice are all vital for UK businesses and central to the UK being at the forefront of ‘Industry 4.0’,” he said.
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