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Is slow and unreliable broadband affecting the local economy?




Six months ago the Federation of Small Business released their latest survey of members which said that a quarter of their members are dissatisfied with their internet provision. As broadband has become more reliable for the majority, the main issue is the poor connection speed that many businesses endure. Looking further into these responses, the real effect on business can be understood with over a quarter of those dissatisfied, stating that their internet problems have cost their business over £1,000 in the last 12 months.

With the reliance on a reliable internet connection increasing all the time, the impact that the provision of the internet has on the economy will become more and more significant. Unsurprisingly, nearly half of those that have poor broadband speed would be willing to pay more for a better connection. For many the perceived problem is BT and its near monopoly of the wholesale market. Many people know that they can check their internet speed by running a broadband speed test on a site like speedtest.net.

Sources have explained to me that there are a number of reasons why BT wholesale is failing to connect businesses. This may be best explained by using the town of Berkhamsted as an example:

A quick check of the excellent site www.samknows.com/broadband/broadband_checker shows that Berkhamsted exchange has been enabled for fibre for some time. Fabulous I hear you shout! Well hold fire because as usual it is not that simple. Once an exchange is enabled BT will then begin the roll out of BT infinity (fibre) to the local cabinet. This will allow those that are networked into the cabinet access to what is called a FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) service. This usually provides between 30 – 60 mbps download and 5 – 15 mbps upload. BT is prioritising residential customers rather than business and unfortunately it makes commercial sense for them to do so: Residential customers in general have very low internet usage during the day and only really use the internet at evenings and weekends; businesses make huge demands for broadband bandwidth during the working day yet broadband prices are similar for residential and business customers. The majority of the High Street and business offices in Berkhamsted do not have access to FTTC internet…similarly many business are convinced that during periods of bad weather their internet slows significantly (unfortunate when considering the UK climate). However, some of the residential roads further from the town center have Fibre.

The good news is that thanks to new technologies there are alternatives, however these are more expensive. Therefore we feel that if small business is the lifeblood of the UK economy then a level playing field is needed to prevent our larger competitors from benefiting from fast communications whilst the small business community are stuttering along at slower speeds.

We would really like to get a good idea of local business broadband speeds, reliability and attitudes towards faster broadband; please take a few seconds to complete the below form and we will let you know how you can add your voice to the calls of small business for improved broadband speeds.