New research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has once again highlighted the problems of rural broadband and the ongoing issues people in those areas have with connectivity.
The research, which found that 49% of rural small businesses were dissatisfied with their broadband provision, compared with 28% in urban areas, has led to further talk of a ‘two-speed digital economy.’
This issue is predicted to become even more significant over the next two years, as small firms become more reliant on a high quality broadband connection to do business. More than three quarters (77%) said that email will be critical to their business, while more than half (57%) said broadband will be essential to engaging with their customers in the next two years.
As broadband providers, we know more about this issue than most. Crucially, people thinking of setting up in rural areas need to know that no provider will be able to offer an effective service if the basic infrastructure is not in place.
Limited availability of superfast broadband services is a key reason for slower speeds in rural areas, although broadband speeds over ADSL, a technology that uses the copper wire telephone network, are generally also slower because of the longer distances to the telephone exchange.
While the speed of service is ultimately dictated by what infrastructure is in place, there are steps that providers can take to ensure that you’re receiving as good a service as possible in any given area.
We, for example, have selected our supply chain with superior connectivity in mind and through our use of multiple suppliers we are able to search for and can identify the best connections at your exchange and advise you of the most appropriate product for your business, in your area.
Our range of broadband providers includes all of the major networks (including BT, Talk Talk, Gamma, Daisy Wholesale, Virgin and Nine wholesale), giving us the maximum number of packages to choose from.
Other options for rural businesses to consider, which may provide a better service overall depending on what your local broadband capacity is, include fibre broadband and direct internet access (DIA).
Fibre broadband opens all kinds of new possibilities for speed, although it does require the area to be fibre-enabled.
DIA is a dedicated internet service aimed at businesses that provides a robust, reliable and fast connection, with options available to suit different business needs, bandwidth requirements and speeds.
But it’s not all doom and gloom outside of our towns and cities. Improving speeds in rural areas is a priority for the Government which has committed funding to ensure superfast broadband is more widely available across the UK. It has reportedly on course to reach 90% superfast coverage by early 2016 and last year announced an extra £250 million investment to extend superfast coverage to 95% of premises by 2017.
However, the FSB believes that more could be done, especially as just 16% of rural businesses currently have access to superfast broadband.
As a result of its findings, it is calling for the Government to conduct a comprehensive review of broadband policy. This includes measures to encourage more competition for better packages in the business broadband market, a commitment to accelerate the roll-out of 4G mobile services and prioritisation of fibre-optic provision to business parks and enterprise zones.