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Small business group warns of ‘two-speed’ digital economy

Nearly half of the UK’s rural small businesses are not satisfied with their broadband provision, and continued poor connectivity risks the emergence of a two-speed digital economy, according to research conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The survey revealed that 49% of small businesses in rural areas are dissatisfied, compared with 28% of those in urban areas.

Some of the key issues raised by the survey related to reliability, upload speed and download speed.

The FSB believes that the problem is likely to worsen over the next two years, as small businesses become increasingly reliant on high quality broadband connections.

The business group is warning that an inadequate broadband infrastructure could threaten the expansion of the £400bn rural economy.

Commenting on the report, Mike Cherry of the FSB said, ‘It’s worrying that as many as 14% of UK small firms still view the lack of a reliable broadband connection as being the primary barrier to their growth. 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’.

The FSB is calling for a minimum of 10Mbps to be available to all businesses by 2018/19, together with a pledge to deliver minimum speeds of 100Mbps by 2013.

The business group has urged the Government to conduct a comprehensive review of broadband policy.