One of the UK's leading business organisations has called for a wide-ranging review of the nation's broadband network, claiming that the current ecosystem is dooming many small businesses to fail.
In a report released today, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which has around 200,000 members, said that the issue was a national problem, revealing that more than 45,000 British small businesses are still using dial-up internet access, leaving them struggling to complete even the simplest business tasks.
94% of small business owners consider a reliable Internet connection to be critical to the success of their business, but only 15% of firms said they were very satisfied with their current broadband provision, the report found.
The body is now calling for more ambitious broadband targets from the government, claiming that the current aim to get the whole country connected to download speeds over 2MBps by 2017 does not go far enough.
Instead, it wants the government to commit to ensuring minimum download speeds of 10Mbps for all business premises in the UK by 2018-19, regardless of location.
It is also calling for guaranteed minimum bandwidth levels, reliable connections and greater parity between upload and download speeds, at affordable prices, as well as ensuring that the UK's digital infrastructure is future-proofed to guarantee that future business needs are met.
As part of this, the FSB wants the Government to set a medium to long-term objective of creating a "world-beating digital infrastructure", providing minimum speeds of 100Mbps to all premises by 2030, with businesses getting first priority.
The FSB report points out that the UK is lagging far behind other countries in Europe and the world, mentioning that Denmark is committed to offering universal access of 100Mbps to its citizens by 2020, while South Korea has a target of 1000Mbps (1 Gbps) for 90% of its population by 2017.
"Evidence from our members shows this clearly is a problem affecting all corners of the UK, rural areas and cities alike," said John Allan, national chairman of the FSB, who labelled the current situation "unacceptable".
"While progress has been made with the residential market, businesses have not enjoyed the same benefits, which is holding back their growth. We therefore want to see the UK Government show ambition with its broadband targets and put business needs at their centre. Leaving 5% of the population with a 2Mbps connection in 2017 is not good enough."