Rural broadband: still life on a branch line

Ms Smith is based in Cornwall, but the FSB suggests the problem is more widespread. Close to half a million smaller businesses still use dial-up internet connections for example. Others are restricted, especially by slow upload speeds. Again, the consumer focus of most broadband providers means that local services where they exist at all are asymmetrical, with much higher download speeds than uploads.

Businesses often prefer a symmetrical service, or may find that the upload speeds on offer, of 0.5mbps to 1.0Mbps, are too slow to use the latest cloud computing services.

The FSB, for its part, would like to see more competition, especially in the fixed business broadband market; it also believes that the targets set for the Government's BDUK broadband initiative are not ambitious enough.

The FSB would like to see a target of 10mbps broadband to all homes and businesses by 2018-19, although reaching those speeds, with fixed connections in rural areas, will remain a challenge.

So, in the short term, it is calling on the Government and broadband providers to target upgrades at business parks and business districts. Even in towns, these sites are being overlooked in favour of domestic broadband connections. But unless businesses can connect, the value to consumers of superfast fibre will remain limited.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro.