Business Secretary Sajid Javid promises manufacturers he will launch inquiry into the availability and affordability of business broadband
The government is to hold a “wide-ranging” review into the business broadband market following concerns from the manufacturing sector that the existing services available might be inadequate and too expensive to accommodate future industrial demand.
Speaking at EEF’s (the manufacturers association) annual conference, Business Secretary Sajid Javid said a joint-review led by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) would look at increasing the level of affordable and high quality broadband available for businesses.
Specifically, the inquiry will look at what steps can be taken to encourage competition and improve services and how British businesses can take advantage of the opportunities afforded by faster broadband.
Business broadband review
Both Javid and EEF spoke of enabling ‘Industry 4.0’ – an approach focused on automation and analytics powered by connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT).
“Developing new technologies, an extensive digital infrastructure, vibrant competition and consumer choice are all vital for UK businesses and central to the UK being at the forefront of ‘Industry 4.0’,” said Javid. “That is why today I have announced a wide-ranging review of business broadband in the UK. As a one nation government I want every business, regardless of size or location to benefit from access to the fast, reliable connectivity they need to thrive.”
“Access to high quality broadband is critical for business and manufacturers increasingly rely on it,” added Terry Scuoler, EEF chief executive. “This review is therefore timely and should lead to a significant push by government and providers to help improve digital connectivity and affordability so that companies in the UK can take advantage of more global opportunities.
“Manufacturers are future focussed and government can lead the way. The Secretary of State’s action today is an early and welcome down payment on ensuring that Britain can become a leading player in the fourth industrial revolution.”
Earlier this month, the EEF called on the government to launch a review, especially with regards to leased lines due to the importance and rising cost of connectivity for manufacturers. It claims 91 percent of manufacturing firms of all sizes consider a high speed broadband to be as important and electricity. The majority of firms are happy with their current service but fear cost and quality could impact future performance.
Recent research from Virgin Media suggested the average small business employee loses 15 minutes every day due to a slow Internet connection but Ofcom research has suggested two fifths of SMBs don’t know their own broadband speed. However recent legislation allows companies to exit their contracts without penalty if they do not receive the speeds they were promised on a regular basis.
BT and Virgin Media have warned Ofcom that any move to provide rivals with greater access to their business broadband networks or to allow competitors to deploy their own dark fibre would damage the UK market by increasing prices and damaging service quality.