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November 3, 2009

SMBs slam UK government broadband plans

“Arcane” technology holding back businesses

By Steve Evans

The government’s plan to provide broadband speeds of 2mbps throughout the UK by 2012 has been lambasted by SMBs as woefully inadequate.

SMBs throughout the UK, particularly those in rural areas, see high-speed broadband accessibility as a luxury rather than a necessity despite the fact that many of them rely on a speedy Internet connection for their day to day operations.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says that the government’s plans risk damaging the ambition of many SMBs.

“More than half of small businesses rely on the Internet for up to 50 per cent of their annual turnover,” said FSB national chairman John Wright, “yet simple tasks such as emailing, marketing, buying and selling are time-consuming because their broadband speeds are letting them down.”

The plans have also been criticised by communications and hosted IT provider Outsourcery. Mark Seemann, product strategy and development director at the firm, said that a major overhaul of broadband infrastructure throughout the UK is needed.

“The reality is that the plans to increase broadband speeds do not go anywhere near far enough. The aim is essentially to tinker with the broadband speed rather than solving the underlying issue which is that the UK is using arcane technology,” he said. “The nation’s copper infrastructure desperately needs to be upgraded to fibre optic in order to satisfy businesses requirements for today and in the future.”

Relying on copper wires for broadband connectivity is unlikely to enable speeds much beyond 50mpbs, while fibre optic connections can achieve speeds of 100mbps and even up to 1GB.

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A recent report by BT, released to coincide with its Small Business Week initiative, revealed that SMBs keen on embracing new technologies are suffering less as a result of the recession. The report highlighted technology’s role in helping businesses operate more effectively during the downturn.

Lord Digby Jones, who was at the launch of the report, said that equipment and infrastructure are key to helping SMBs flourish as well as pulling the UK out of the recession. “Equipping firms with the right technology and support will help tip the economy from recession onto the road to recovery in 2010,” he said.

 

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