Insights Government publishes review of business broadband and call for evidence.

The Government wants to hear from businesses about the barriers they are facing in accessing superfast broadband.  It is encouraging responses from businesses, communications providers and other interested parties.

Ofcom reports that 83% of small businesses consider communication services to be fundamental to their business, and 78% use a fixed broadband connection, the Government says.  Ofcom also estimates that UK turnover would increase by £18.8 billion if all SMEs traded online.

Further, in its report entitled The fourth utility: Delivering universal broadband connectivity for small businesses across the UK, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) highlighted that lack of broadband access reduces productivity, stifles innovation and restricts the ability of British firms to grow and compete in global markets.  An FSB survey in 2013 found that as many as 14% of small businesses considered the lack of reliable and fast broadband connectivity to be their main barrier to growth.  Further, in a separate survey, 40% of small businesses said improved digital infrastructure in their area would encourage them to invest in new technology.

In February 2016, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills announced a joint Review into Business Broadband by the Departments for Culture, Media and Sport and Business, Innovation and Skills, to explore the barriers facing businesses in accessing affordable superfast broadband.

The announcement said that the Review would look at:

  • the broadband speeds that businesses need now and in the future;
  • the barriers that exist for businesses to get the affordable, high speed broadband they need; and
  • the issue of leased lines and the role they play in the market.

Since the announcement, Ofcom has published its Review of Digital Communications (DCR) and its Business Connectivity Market Review (BCMR), both of which will be taken into account alongside existing wider Government interventions, including the BDUK superfast broadband investment programme and the development of the broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO).

The Review wants to hear from businesses and communications providers.  The call for evidence is published by the Departments for Business, Innovation and Skills and Culture Media and Sport to obtain a deeper understanding of the connectivity needs and choices businesses have.  The Government will consider next steps in the light of the evidence received as well as studies already available.  It is encouraging contributions from all interested parties.  The call for evidence is open until 3 June 2016.  To access the consultation documentation, click here.