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SMEs stuck in broadband slow lane

Small businesses are lagging behind residential homes when it come to access to superfast broadband, according to new data from Ofcom.

Superfast broadband is now available to 83% of UK homes (representing almost 24 million), up from 75% last year. By contrast, just 68% of SMEs in the UK currently have access to superfast broadband, up from 56% in 2014.

The new report from Ofcom, Connected Nations 2015, also reveals that almost half of SMEs in areas like business parks are unable to receive speeds above 10Mbit/s. It estimates that by 2017, when 95% of all UK premises will have superfast broadband, around 18% of SMEs will still not have access to a superfast service.

John Allan, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: 

"We know poor access and understanding of the availability of superfast broadband has been a longstanding problem for the UK's smaller businesses. Progress is being made, but too many small firms remain stuck in the slow lane."
He added: "Today's report underlines the importance of the Government's new commitment to a 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO). This timely measure will help to set an acceptable baseline for speed and quality which will allow firms to take advantage of the benefits of doing more online. When the details of the new USO are unveiled, they should include explicit targets for connecting smaller businesses and delivering a reliable, consistent service."

The Ofcom research shows that 73% of premises can now receive a 4G signal from three of the four networks, up from 44% last year. Ofcom has put in place rules to ensure that 98% of premises can receive a 4G signal indoors by 2017.

Ofcom has also published its latest European Broadband Scorecard, which compares the availability, usage and price of broadband services across EU member states. The scorecard shows that, among major European nations, the UK has the best coverage and take-up of superfast broadband, the highest coverage of fast mobile services, and some of the cheapest prices.

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