Fibred-up SMEs will boost economy, CMA tells government

The government should satisfy the needs of businesses in communications policy and investment to achieve its economic growth goals

The government should satisfy the needs of businesses in communications policy and investment to achieve its economic growth goals, according to the Communications Management Association (CMA).

Opening the CMA's annual conference on Wednesday, CMA chairman Carolyn Kimber (pictured) said the CMA represented firms that buy £13bn of communications products and services a year.

"From that position, CMA recognises that the need for infrastructure investment is both urgent and mission-critical, for our enterprise, for our societal development, and, above all, for local economic growth throughout the land," Kimber said.

Kimber called for the government to listen to the voice of business in policy discussions. "It should not be an uphill battle to get policy makers and regulators to understand that the needs of business customers are pre-eminent in the digital agenda," she said.

She said companies with more than 250 people employed just 0.4% of the working population. "Fewer than 50 people are employed by 98% of businesses, but it is from within their ranks that we can see the greatest potential for innovation and economic growth, and the greatest potential for exploiting fully fibred local access networks," Kimber said.

Kimber said Europe's Digital Agenda commissioner, Neelie Kroes, had a sharp message for politicians, regulators and incumbent telcos that might be tempted to "prevaricate".

"Broadband, and by this she is very clear that she means future-proofed, fit-for-purpose, fibre-enabled broadband, is 'digital oxygen essential for our prosperity'," Kimber said.

She welcomed the government's decision to combine most communications policy and regulatory initiatives in a single department.

She said the government was "in serious danger of putting some real energy, some real effort and some real resources" into the networks on which the country now relies.

"After years of denial and, to be frank, ignorance, this attitudinal sea-change - this wiser economic analysis - is long overdue," she told delegates to the London conference.

Urging the government to go further, Kimber said: "We need to see the end of denial and 'muddling through'. The urgent need for renewed economic growth does not allow us the luxury of endless and lengthy regulatory debates about blindingly obvious objectives."

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