The development of the UK economy is at risk of losing momentum as rural businesses suffer from slow broadband connections, according to a new report.
Research by the Federal of Small Businesses (FSB) found that 49% of smal rurall businesses are dissatisfied with the quality of their broadband, which is nearly double the amount faced by small urban businesses.
Another 47% said they were dissatisfied with the reliability of their broadband connection, while 61% complained about upload speeds and download speeds.
The research, which surveyed 1,400 firms, said the issue threatens the expansion of the £400bn rural economy, as businesses become increasingly reliant on high quality broadband speeds.
Mike Cherry, National Policy Chairman at FSB, said: "This research paints a worrying picture of a divided business broadband landscape in the UK, and unless addressed highlights a clear obstacle to growth in the coming years. We risk seeing the emergence of a two-speed online economy resulting from poor rural broadband infrastructure.
Meanwhile, 77% said that email will be critical to their business in the next two years, while 57% said broadband will be essential to engaging with their customers.
"A reliable connection is now viewed as a key business requirement by 94% of small UK businesses, yet continued poor connectivity in rural areas represents a huge missed opportunity for economic growth in many parts of the country," added Cherry.
"These gaps and weaknesses need to be addressed as a matter of priority with the minimum of 10 Mbps to all business premises by 2018/19, and a pledge to deliver minimum speeds of 100Mbps to all by 2030."
Stuart Lynn, Sage UK & Ireland’s CTO, commented: "Today’s report from the FSB underlines why the UK needs to have technology infrastructure such as broadband top of mind. We’ve had the industrial revolution and the electrical revolution, currently we are in the midst of a technology revolution."
"Smart phones, tablets and laptops are fundamentally transforming the way many businesses run by providing anytime, anywhere access to data and information via the internet. But to see such a high proportion of rural businesses dissatisfied with their connection underlines the need for the Government to fast-track investment or it runs the risk of rural firms being left behind in this digital race."
"Technology acts as the bridge to cross any physical boundary. Effective communications will allow businesses across the country to link with potential customers much more efficiently, helping them to grow and succeed."