The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has described the UK government’s plans for broadband as ‘not fit for purpose’. The main focus of the FSB’s report was on minimum speeds, and this found that 45,000 UK businesses are still on dial up connections and that almost 14% of small businesses, consider a lack of reliable and fast broadband to be their main barrier to growth.
The FSB also considers the UK’s targets to be somewhat unambitious given that the UK is targeting 2 megabits per second (Mbps) minimum speed by 2017, compared to Denmark that is targeting 100Mbps by 2020.
It should be remembered however, that whilst 45,000 organisations sounds like a lot, this makes up only 1% of SMEs in the UK. BT, who are largely responsible for the fibre optic roll out in the UK have also questioned this figure with a BT statement describing it as ‘wildly inaccurate’.
The statement went on to read:
‘Seventy three per cent of UK premises can access fibre – including some businesses who say they can’t in this report – and that should rise to 90 per cent in under two years. Having said that, we know that many businesses are waiting for fibre and it may be they’re prominent among the four per cent of FSB members that replied to this survey. The good news is that fibre should reach the vast majority of that four per cent in the coming months or next couple of years under existing plans.’
Whilst government plans for minimum speeds may not be as high as other European nations the argument has been made that the focus needs to be on increasing speeds where the majority of businesses are located.
Additionally when you look at the UK overall we’re not performing badly for average rather than minimum speeds as research conducted by Bloomberg last year shows.
The countries generally beating the UK for fastest average broadband speeds tend to have centralised populations, and as such it is easier and cheaper, to create an effective fibre optic network in these places. Indeed BT is keen to point out the following when compared on a like for like basis–
‘Independent research shows UK fibre availability to be the best among the big five economies in Europe and it is set to improve significantly in the next few years.’
Whilst the report from the FSB certainly merits careful consideration, it does seem that the UK is not as hopeless as this report would lead many to believe.