Rural businesses likely to lose out on BDUK broadband
Between 200,000 and 300,000 UK businesses are unlikely to benefit from the government’s £530m boost to build high speed broadband networks, according to the Country Landowners Association (CLA).
Speaking at a meeting of more than 100 representatives of 80 Essex parishes last night, the CLA’s head of rural business development Charles Trotman said the latest Ofcom broadband map showed that 20% of the country’s 476,000 registered businesses were unable to receive a 2Mbps broadband service.
“If you add all the unregistered rural businesses, the real figure is closer to 200,000 to 300,000,” he said.
The meeting was set up by County Broadband, a wireless broadband supplier. County Broadband has specialised in getting broadband into villages that are unlikely to receive high speed broadband under the published plans of BT and Virgin Media, the UK’s two main commercial broadband operations.
These plans are concentrated on urban areas that cover two-thirds of the population. Both say they could increase coverage to 90% with BDUK money. Virgina Media is silent on what service people in rural areas might get from it, but BT says its minimum speed would be 2Mbps. As this could be a contended service, the actual speeds experienced could be lower.
Recent documentation seen by Br0kenTeleph0n3 suggests the government wants every consumer to get a minimum 2Mbps service by 2015, but there is no overt commitment to businesses.
Trotman said broadband was essential for farmers to improve their incomes by diversifying from farming. One West Sussex farmer he knew of had lost a £150,000 a year tenant because of a lack of broadband. Another on the Welsh/English border faced losing 25 tenants who were running small businesses and needed high speed broadband to cope with orders that came in from around the world, he said.
“The bed & breakfasts are still there, but the tourists aren’t because there’s no broadband, and in some parts of the country, you can’t sell a house without a good broadband connection,” he said.
Trotman said broadband could have a huge impact on a small business’s costs. He spoke of a Sussex fishmonger who phones Thailand twice a day to order fish. Doing it by phone rather than on Skype would have cost him at extra £20,000 a year, Trotman said.
“Government has still not recognised that broadband is the fourth utility,” he said. This would perpetuate the digital divide between urban and rural broadband services, he said.
“Broadband is the revolution of the 21st century. It is the dynamo that will be power up the rest of the economy.”