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Issue:- 16 January 2015

North West businesses dissatisfied with their broadband service

NEW FSB research finds criticisms over reliability, speed, service levels and switching despite the growing importance of broadband for business.

A total of 30% of small business owners across the North West said they are 'somewhat unsatisfied' or 'very unsatisfied' by the overall broadband service for their businesses, according to a survey carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses.

34% say the same about the reliability of their broadband specifically. Further, 40% are unsatisfied with upload speeds and just under 43% with the download speeds they experience.  In addition, in excess of 35% are dissatisfied with their mobile voice coverage and more than 37% with their mobile data coverage. However, landline reliability fares better with slightly fewer than 14% not satisfied with this.

Service levels and switching

When there are problems with the service, almost 32% are dissatisfied with the speed of fault repairs and just under 32% with the customer service they receive. 19% experience daily problems with their broadband.

Despite this, 30% are not satisfied with the ease of switching providers. In all, almost 31% are dissatisfied with the length of their contracts and slightly fewer than 33% with the clarity of contracts.

The importance of broadband for business

The importance of broadband for business is clear. In all, just over 76% of FSB members in the North West say email is 'critical' and that it is 20% 'very important.' For web browsing it is 42% and 31%, engaging with customers is 50% and 30%, engaging with suppliers 35% and 33%, marketing 35% and 31% social media 17% and 17% and internet banking is 43% and 40% respectively. For online trading it is 25% and 15%. A total of 10% of North West businesses surveyed say broadband is critical for exporting and just under 11% that it is very important. In every area FSB members indicate that this importance will increase over the next two years.

'2–speed digital economy'

Across the UK as a whole, the FSB has uncovered a '2-speed digital economy,' with 49% of rural small businesses dissatisfied with the quality of their broadband provision - almost double the level of dissatisfaction compared to urban small businesses (28% dissatisfied).

Elaine Moore, Chairman of FSB Merseyside, West Cheshire and Wigan the Federation of Small Businesses, said:- "Doing business online is becoming increasingly important - some 96% of FSB members say broadband is a key business requirement; so it is very concerning that we are still in a situation where more than a third of small businesses in the North West view their unreliable connection as a major barrier to growth.  These gaps and weaknesses; including the '2-speed digital economy' between rural and urban areas; need to be addressed as a matter of priority with a minimum of 10 Mbps to all business premises by 2018/19, and a pledge to deliver minimum speeds of 100Mbs to all by 2030."

Improvements to the UK's broadband provision have been made in recent years, with 16% of rural businesses now having access to super fast broadband and more packages targeted at the needs of business, but the FSB believes that more could be done. The Government's strategy to deliver 24Mbps broadband to 95% of all users by 2017 is not sufficiently ambitious, especially for the five per cent of mainly rural businesses left receiving just 2Mbps, which is barely sufficient for even basic tasks like sending commercial emails.

As a result of the findings laid out in its 'Fourth Utility' report, the FSB is calling for 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.

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