Business broadband failure to be subject of new review

Business Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that the provision of broadband for British businesses is to be the subject of a new review.

He made the announcement in a speech at the annual conference of manufacturers’ organisation the EEF. Jointly undertaken with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the review will specifically look at how to raise the level of fast and affordable fibre-based broadband for businesses.

Mr Javid said that developing new technologies, an extensive digital infrastructure, vibrant competition and consumer choice were all vital for businesses in the UK and were also central to the country being at the forefront of what he called ‘Industry 4.0’. This refers to the concept of the fourth industrial revolution and is an umbrella term incorporating a number of new automation, data exchange and manufacturing technologies.

He added that he wants every business, regardless of size or location, to benefit from access to the fast, reliable connectivity they need to thrive. 

The announcement comes after telecommunications regulator Ofcom found evidence of a ‘speed gap’ in the speed estimates businesses were being promised by internet service providers during the sales process and the speeds they were actually getting in operational circumstances.

Ofcom said it would institute a new code encouraging ISPs to offer more realistic and personalised estimates of the speeds new customers could expect. The code will be voluntary but under its terms, businesses receiving internet speeds below a certain level will be free to walk away from their contracts with no penalties.

Slow internet speeds have been cited as one of the greatest barriers to productivity for SMEs in the UK and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills has estimated that the new review could be worth £120 billion a year to the economy as a whole. For individual businesses, a lack of access to superfast broadband might not be the biggest problem they face, but it could be a contributory factor to some requiring business recovery due to lost performance and wasted labour hours. This issue is especially paramount when firms are involved in e-commerce or are reliant on technology for the everyday running of their business.

By Phil Smith

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