March 19, 2010 - Anonymous
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the Government to do more to improve Internet access for small firms after finding that more than half are unhappy with their connection.
According to research by the FSB, 63 per cent of small firms are unhappy with the speed and reliability of their connection. As the Digital Economy Bill goes through parliament, the FSB has urged the Government to add measures to improve the speed and reliability of Internet access for small firms.
The Bill includes requirements for telecoms watchdog Ofcom to assess the UK's communications infrastructure every two years, including broadband access.
FSB spokeswoman, Prue Watson, said that Ofcom needed to clamp down on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) whose broadband service was slower than they had promised customers.
"There is nothing in the Digital Economy Bill to ensure that small business owners are getting the broadband speeds they have been told they will get" she said. "The line is already tested within the first ten days of the contract, but where the results show that the speed is actually slower, firms should get a discount or be allowed to cancel their contract."
Last year, the Government launched its Universal Service Commitment in the Digital Britain Report, pledging to deliver a broadband speed of 2 Mbps to every household and business by 2012.
However, Watson said that the commitment was not enough. "Most small businesses with a broadband speed of 2 Mbps struggle to do day-to-day things such as online marketing," she said. "We are calling on Government to raise that to 8 Mbps to ensure that small businesses get the service that they need."
The FSB survey of 1,300 small firms also found that 30 per cent are based in an area that has an unreliable broadband connection. "It's essential for all firms, including rural businesses, to have decent broadband connections in order for the UK to compete globally," added Watson.
A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) spokeswoman, Joanna Robotham, said that the Government had already made a commitment to improve Internet access.
"The 2 Mbps we've promised is a good quality of service, but that isn't the ceiling of our broadband ambition," she said. "We have also set up an organisation called Broadband Delivery UK, which will deliver super-fast broadband to 90 per cent of the country by 2017 — through taxes outlined in the Finance Bill. The Government absolutely recognises the importance of this."
Robotham added that the Government has no plans to crack down on ISPs. "If a firm isn't getting the service promised by their ISP, they need to take it up with them – it is not something the Government has any control over."