Too many small businesses in rural areas like Wiltshire continue to be held back by poor broadband coverage and slow speeds, the Federation of Small Businesses has claimed.
Ofcom's annual Connected Nations report shows around 230,000 small firms still cannot access decent broadband (10Mbps), with around 500,000 unable to access super-fast broadband.
The problem is especially serious in rural communities and in business parks, where 65,000 small businesses cannot access a decent connection of 10Mbps.
The report's authors write: "Since we published our first report on these services in 2011, coverage has grown and people and businesses are better connected.
"But in too many areas coverage is still poor, broadband speeds are slow, and mobile services are unreliable or not available.
"Ofcom’s Strategic Review of Digital Communications led to a number of policies aimed at addressing these problems; our Connected Nations reports help us to monitor progress."
And they continue: "Lack of decent broadband is a particular concern for small businesses. Small businesses increasingly rely on broadband, but a disproportionate number cannot access even a basic service.
"We estimate that almost 230,000 small businesses (seven percent) cannot receive decent broadband. A key benefit of the USO will be to address this concern.
"We see a similar pattern for superfast broadband, where around 500,000 small businesses (16 percent) do not have access, compared to nine percent of premises as a whole."
The Federation of Small Businesses is continuing to call on Government to make a decision to either deliver the Universal Service Obligation or take up Openreach’s offer to expand services, so that all small businesses are connected to a basic level of broadband without delay.
Mike Cherry, FSB National chairman, said: “Poor broadband coverage and slow speeds continue to blight small businesses across the UK, particularly in rural areas where coverage is typically poorest.
“While it’s good to see super-fast coverage has continued to improve, half a million businesses still don’t have access to super-fast broadband.
"The rate of improvement doesn’t appear fast enough to make inroads into the UK’s productivity problems.
“Businesses want to embrace digital technology to compete and enhance their productivity, but to do this they need a decent connection and good quality service.
“Two years on from the promise of the USO, still no decision has been made about how to deliver this. Government needs to step up and make a decision without delay about whether to proceed with the regulatory approach or take up BT’s offer to expand its services.
“It’s essential that small businesses do not continue to be left behind due to poor broadband.”
Back in June, Wiltshire Council successfully bid for funding of £2m from Broadband Delivery UK and secured of match funding of £1m from the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership to bring Ultrafast broadband to the north of the county.
The Connected Nations report can be read at https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0024/108843/summary-report-connected-nations-2017.pdf