Broadband Britain: how fast can we go?

In the UK, the rural lobby is right to argue faster broadband should not create a new digital divide, but equally there are pockets of urban Britain where access is also difficult. Small businesses, in particular, suffer from a lack of reasonably priced, highly connected business space.

Restrictive deals between landlords and telcos common but not unique to serviced offices mean small companies and start ups might never be able to access fibre, even if it passes their front door.

The trend for multi-year contracts, with stiff penalties for cancellation, risk tying smaller firms into technologies that might already be out of date. The risk of having to buy the company out of a contract, for example if they need to move premises in order to expand, pushes some businesses to buy the cheapest connections rather than the most appropriate ones. At least with a cheap deal, the losses if you must cancel are limited.

Then there are the cases where residential premises, sometime next door to or even above businesses, can access high speed connections "unavailable" if you are buying for business.

The Government could do worse than canvass the business community, and not the telcos and ISPs, for their views on where the barriers to Broadband Britain lie. It is not only small firms, but also branch offices and retail outlets of large PLCs, and public sector bodies, that are affected by the UK's patchy provision.

By all means use Government money to boost broadband if that is likely to help the economy, but ministers and officials need to remember that not all "not spots" are in the countryside. They are on urban streets too.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT PRO.

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Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.