The UK’s global competitiveness is at risk due to an under investment of £1.1bn in its broadband infrastructure, according to a report from the London School of Economics.
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The paper commissioned by information management company Convergys identified a gap in funding of £1.1bn needed to support the government’s deployment of 100% fast broadband coverage and 90% superfast broadband coverage across the UK by 2015.
Private and public sources have already pledged a total funding of £1.3bn, but this will not be enough to make the UK globally competitive, it said.
Dr Paolo Dini, senior research fellow at the LSE, said the government should consider investment in the infrastructure as a key service to society. He said it would be too much of a burden on the internet service providers to expect them to meet the entire £1.1bn shortfall.
“The US is investing more, Japan, and Australia, all other governments are looking at is not as an issue to be solved by service providers but as a socio-economic concern.”
He said investment in the ubiquity of broadband needed to be made in parallel with superfast broadband investments.
“We also need investment in e-skills support for SMEs coming online. We need to increase the number of people coming online. The take up in cities is good, but SMEs in rural areas are still behind.”
The comments follow the launch of Go on UK by Martha Lane Fox, intended to broaden the scope of Race Online 2012 to encourage more SMEs to use the internet. Research from the organisation found that just 14% of SMEs sell products and services online.
Small businesses that are online are set to grow twice as fast as their competitors, said Lane Fox. “Failing to act now would result in charities and small businesses operating at a significant disadvantage as the rest of the UK becomes increasingly digital,” she said.