EVAN WIENBURG OPINION
businesses rely heavily on the internet – they’re no different to their urban counterparts in that regard – and at the moment inadequate infrastructure is hampering rural business growth and productivity. Data suggests that around 12% of businesses still don’t even have ‘Superfast’ Broadband (over 24 Mbps), and let’s be unequivocal here: Superfast is not actually fast and does not do a good job of supporting many of the cloud-based software tools that today’s businesses require as essential services. It will not be fit-for-purpose in a few years’ time. Further, just two in five businesses can access Ultrafast Broadband (over 100 Mbps), and a mere 4% can access full fibre directly to their premises, without having to shell out for wildly expensive leased line connections. The ISPA is right to flag the need for the regulator to ensure that businesses, whose specific connectivity needs are usually more complex than consumers, don’t get de-prioritised in the race to full fibre. But within the business community itself, a further priority has to be bridging the divide between urban- and rural- based businesses. In the Superfast stakes, 11% more urban businesses are covered compared to their rural counterparts, rising to 22% compared to business premises in deeply rural areas. To date, these rural businesses have been left bemused by a succession of ill-conceived stop-gap solutions to try and stop them falling even further
The ISPA is right to flag the need for the regulator to ensure that businesses, whose specific connectivity needs are usually more complex than consumers, don’t get de-prioritised in the race to full fibre.
be seen as a utility, for it is as vital as electricity in any home or office, and building a truly future-proof broadband infrastructure in rural communities is vital to ensuring the UK holds its own in world over the decades to come. But more than that, creating rural infrastructure provides a foundation for a more balanced economy – one in which local communities are no longer eroded by the ongoing drain of talented workers to the cities, in which entrepreneurs genuinely believe they can build and grow successful companies in any and every corner of our country. Let’s hope that when Ofcom returns with its finalised plan, the balance has been corrected and the rural businesses of Britain can all breathe a sigh of relief that they’re finally on the radar.
behind, when actually, we shouldn’t be thinking purely in terms of keeping these organisations open for business. This is about equipping our country with an infrastructure capable of enabling several future generations of business to thrive and prosper. That’s why closer regulatory scrutiny is required now, at this formative stage of our full fibre future, avoiding the mistakes of the past when regulators have ended up being sent in after the fact to mop up the mess. Without scrutiny, full fibre providers will flock to the cities and prioritise the areas in which deployment is easiest, quickest and achievable at lowest cost. The full fibre rollout will appear just as uneven as the original broadband rollout has ended up looking. Today, fast and reliable internet must
ISSUE 17 | Q2 2019
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