Manufacturing Firms Want Government Business Broadband Review

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Manufacturers association warns the rising cost of broadband could harm industry and wants government to install provisions for futureproof infrastructure

EEF, the manufacturers association, has called on the UK Government to launch a review of competition for business broadband.

In particular, it wants leased lines competition to be examined due to the importance and rising cost of connectivity for manufacturers.

The organisation says 91 percent of manufacturing firms of all sizes consider a high speed broadband to be as important and electricity. Nearly all use it for basic tasks like email and 95 percent need a good connection to access secure online services every day.

Around half use it for cloud and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software daily and 48 percent use internet connected objects such as sensors and automated machines at least once a week.

Manufacturing broadband

Fibre, network, broadband © Datskevich Aleh Shutterstock 2012While EEF’s research suggests the majority of businesses are happy with their broadband service, there is concern about higher prices, which the organisation claims could threaten a positive business environment that would allow UK manufacturing to thrive – especially as the Internet of things (IoT) takes hold.

Half of respondents said their connection was more expensive than two years ago and a quarter of SMBs and half of medium sized companies are paying more than £5,000 a year – the same as 89 percent of all large companies.

Nearly nine tenths believe businesses should have a right to superfast broadband and three quarters believe UK firms should help the European Union (EU) achieve its goal of a digital single market.

Alongside a review into business broadband, the EEF also wants the National infrastructure Commission to assess the UK’s digital infrastructure and outline an appropriate investment plan. It also wants the UK to push for the digital single market and ensure there is funding in place to develop cluster networks of firms that adopt new digital technologies.

Government review

“Internet connected capital equipment is going to become more prevalent and 62 percent of firms expect to be investing more in this area in the next five years,” said Madeleine Scott, senior policy researcher at EFF. “Indeed, half of respondents to the survey say their current internet connection is not adequate for their expected needs over the next five years, with just 35 percent disagreeing.”

Recent research from Virgin Media suggested the average small business employee loses 15 minutes every day due to a slow Internet connection but Ofcom research has suggested two fifths of SMBs don’t know their own broadband speed. However recent legislation allows companies to exit their contracts without penalty if they do not receive the speeds they were promised on a regular basis.

BT and Virgin Media have warned Ofcom that any move to provide rivals with greater access to their business broadband networks or to allow competitors to deploy their own dark fibre would damage the UK market by increasing prices and damaging service quality.

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