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Broadband woes for one in five UK businesses

The British Chambers of Commerce is calling for more investment in digital infrastructure as its latest survey finds that many UK businesses still have unreliable broadband connections.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) says 18% of businesses across the UK, particularly in rural areas, are still without reliable broadband connections.

All the companies surveyed (99%) by the BCC say a reliable broadband connection is important, with 82% saying it is extremely important; however, the findings reveal that 18% of businesses suffer from unreliable connections - 11% say their service is not very reliable; 7% say it is not at all reliable.

And firms in rural areas are at least twice as likely to have unreliable connections (30%) as those in towns (15%), inner cities (13%), and suburban areas (12%).

Smaller businesses are the most likely to suffer from unreliable broadband, with nearly a quarter (24%) of sole traders and 21% of micro-businesses reporting problems.

The survey suggests that reliable connections would allow businesses to do more. Nearly half of businesses (48%) say if the reliability of their broadband connection was improved it would allow them to use more applications, particularly cloud-based services (24%), transfer of large files (22%) and remote server access for employees (15%).

Adam Marshall, BCC Director General, said: 

"Throughout the country, significant numbers of companies of every size and sector lack reliable internet connectivity - a basic requirement for businesses to operate efficiently in today's world.

"Unreliable connections stunt productivity, causing needless delays, costs and frustration. While businesses in every corner of the UK are affected, our research shows that it's rural areas and small businesses that are most likely to suffer. An unreliable connection acts as an obstacle to growth, and puts those firms most in need of support at a competitive disadvantage."

The BCC has called on providers and the Government to fund the necessary upgrades required to deliver superfast broadband to business communities. Regulators, Marshall added, must also ensure that firms get the quality and speeds of connection they are promised.

"While we welcome recent ministerial announcements about investing in 5G technology … there is still a long way to go in getting the basics right. The immediate focus must be on providing all companies with connections that are reliable and of sufficient speed."

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