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FSB calls on Vaizey to push universal broadband

Ian Grant

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on Ed Vaizey, the new broadband minister, to make basic broadband speeds a universal service obligation to help small firms grow and strengthen economic recovery.

It also wants broadband customers to be able to cancel their contracts without penalty if their service does not meet the levels specified in their supply contracts.

FSB research showed that nearly 33% of small firms were offered between 2Mbps and 4Mbps, but 94% said they felt their service providers' offerings fell short of these claimed speeds.

Many small businesses, especially in rural areas, did not have access to fast and reliable broadband, and were trading inefficiently as a result, it said.

Welcoming Vaizey's appointment, the FSB said it was pleased to see the government's recognition of the importance of tackling the lack of broadband. It urged Vaizey to fix this swiftly.

Putting in place super-fast broadband could create 60,000 jobs and add £18bn to UK GDP, it claimed.

FSB chairman John Walker said the lack of broadband was "unacceptable in the 21st century". The UK was lagging, and as a result the nation's 4.8 million small businesses could not develop their businesses online, which was vital to grow the UK's economy.

He called on Vaizey to have direct oversight of the roll-out, improvement and maintenance of broadband services. Broadband had to be seen as essential as gas, water and electricity, it said.

There must be greater transparency by industry on the true cost of delivering broadband across the UK, he said.

Walker also called for a stronger role for the telecommunications ombudsman and for Ofcom. Ofcom should be able to rule directly against all service providers, their contractors and group companies, he said.

He welcomed the government's proposals to use part of the BBC's licence fee to pay for rolling out more broadband in remote areas. He also called for the government to incentivise more small businesses to install, maintain and own broadband services.


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