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Government launches probe into business broadband access

Business secretary Sajid Javid announces a review to improve business access to affordable, high-speed broadband

The government has launched a review of business broadband, aiming to improve access to high-speed connectivity for businesses.

Speaking at the Engineering Employers Federation’s (EEF) annual conference, business secretary Sajid Javid announced the review on the back of an EEF survey, which found that 50% of businesses said their internet connectivity would “not be suitable for their future needs”. 

“That is why I have announced a wide-ranging review of business broadband in the UK,” said Javid.

“As a one-nation government, I want every business – regardless of size or location – to benefit from access to the fast, reliable connectivity they need to thrive.”

In November 2015, prime minister David Cameron promised that all people and businesses in the UK will have access to fast broadband by 2020.

The roll-out of superfast broadband has provided increased connectivity speeds to an extra 3.5 million businesses and is on track to cover 95% of the UK by 2017, according to the government.

The review will look specifically at improving access to affordable and high-quality fibre broadband for businesses and how to “encourage choice and competition” to drive down prices.

“Working alongside the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, we will look at the broadband speeds that businesses need now and in the future,” said Javid.

“We will look at the barriers that exist for businesses to get the affordable, high-speed broadband they need. We will look at the whole issue of leased lines and the role they play in the market.”

Ofcom review into digital market

In 2015, Ofcom launched a strategic review of the UK’s digital communications market, covering cover competition, investment, innovation and the availability of products in the broadband, mobile and landline market.

Javid said the government would take the regulator’s review, which is due to be published later this week, into account.

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, said that businesses and manufacturers rely on access to high-quality broadband.

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“This review is therefore timely and should lead to a significant push by government and providers to help improve digital connectivity and affordability. This is so companies in the UK can take advantage of more global opportunities,” said Scuoler.

In London, access to broadband for businesses has been a long-standing issue. During the mayoral candidate tech debate earlier in November 2016, Conservatice candidate Zach Goldsmith said that rolling out broadband can be “achieved relatively easy”.

He suggested partnering with the private sector to use Transport for London’s (TfL's) existing network to turn it into a “superfast broadband network”.

“It needn’t cost a penny of public money. There are mobile phone providers who want to be able to use the tunnels in the TfL network and are happy to pay for the network,” he said.

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