The latest from the Black Country 

Urgent Action Needed to Tackle Poor Broadband Infrastructure

Corin CraneAccording to the results of a recent survey carried out by the British Chambers of Commerce, businesses across the UK are still without reliable broadband connections, despite companies saying the availability of fully functioning broadband is extremely important to their operations.

Within the local West Midlands region, all companies surveyed (99%) stated that a reliable broadband connection is important, (84% say extremely so), yet more than one in five (22%) suffer from unreliable connections (12% not very reliable; 11% not at all reliable).

Furthermore, the survey suggests that more reliable broadband connections would allow businesses to do more. For instance, more than half of businesses (51%) say if the reliability of their broadband connection was improved it would allow them to use more applications, particularly those relating to the transfer of large files (27%), cloud-based services (24%), and internet telephony services (18%).

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Business communities across the UK still report that our digital infrastructure is not fit for purpose. Throughout the country, significant numbers of companies of every size and sector lack reliable internet connectivity – a basic requirement for businesses to operate efficiently in today’s world.

“Unreliable connections stunt productivity, causing needless delays, costs and frustration. While businesses in every corner of the UK are affected, our research shows that rural areas and small businesses that are most likely to suffer. An unreliable connection acts as an obstacle to growth, and puts those firms most in need of support at a competitive disadvantage.

“We’ve been calling on both providers and government for years to fund the necessary upgrades required to deliver superfast broadband to business communities. Regulators, too, must ensure that firms actually get the quality and speeds of connection they are promised. While we welcome recent ministerial announcements about investing in 5G technology and efforts to build a world-class digital infrastructure in the UK, there is still a long way to go in getting the basics right. The immediate focus must be on providing all companies with connections that are reliable and of sufficient speed, which would boost business confidence and encourage firms to maximise opportunities for growth, trade and investment.”

Corin Crane, Chief Executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, commented: “Following a consultation that we held in November 2016, the Black Country Chamber of Commerce has identified improvements in digital infrastructure as being a key area of development for the local business community. The fact that more than one in five companies in the region suffer with unreliable internet connections is unacceptable.

“Moreover, local businesses have an insatiable appetite for growth, which is seemingly being hampered by inadequate technology that is quite often beyond their control, with more than half of those surveyed telling us that improved connectivity would help to facilitate their ambitions for growth. Therefore, we are calling for increased investment in digital infrastructure, as well as transport infrastructure, so that we can work to get the Black Country moving again.”

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