SMEs urge government to increase target for faster broadband rollout

(2 minutes to read)

FSB: ‘The government’s watered-down target remains a blow to firms still operating with sub-standard connections and to rural communities who rely on it to carry out the most basic of tasks’.

Recent research shows that many SMEs risk being held back by poor broadband connections if the government doesn’t increase its target for a faster rollout.

This is according to data compiled by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which has been released as the government announced that the first stages of its ‘Project Gigabit’ plans to get ultra-fast broadband to the remotest homes in the UK.

The first areas to benefit will be businesses in:

  • Cambridgeshire
  • Cornwall
  • Cumbria
  • Dorset
  • Durham
  • Essex
  • Northumberland
  • South Tyneside
  • Tees Valley.

The 2019 manifesto pledged to increase ambition in the UK’s broadband programme, rolling out gigabit capable connections to all homes and businesses in the UK by 2025. But, the FSB say that the watered-down target revealed last year stands at just 85% – which risks leaving 15% behind.

FSB evidence suggests that the experience of Covid-19 has hammered home to small businesses the importance of reliable and fast broadband connections.

Of those surveyed, 25% are not happy with their current broadband, 32% say that they don’t have the skills or experience to take advantage of gigabit broadband and 56% say they can’t afford to spend any more than they currently do.

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FSB National Chair Mike Cherry, said, “It’s good news that the first areas of the roll-out have been announced, giving hope to small firms in those locations.  At this critical time for economic recovery, the UK’s small businesses are more reliant than ever on broadband.

“Some firms may choose to adopt a hybrid working system long after the pandemic is over, but the economy needs stable and reliable infrastructure to support that in all parts of the UK, not just select areas.

“The government’s watered-down target remains a blow to firms still operating with sub-standard connections and to rural communities who rely on it to carry out the most basic of tasks. Broadband has been fundamental in keeping the economy alive during periods of lockdown and will be fundamental in rebuilding it. The government must do all it can to ensure that this policy pivot doesn’t hit those whose income is solely dependent on a steady network.”

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