The Government last month released a report telling us that investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure is vital to growth. And telling us that old copper wiring is not good enough and that we need fibre-optic connections for Superfast Broadband, particularly for businesses.
The report set out a target of a minimum 10Mbps as a ‘Universal Service Obligation’. That sounds good, but the truth is that it is just not good enough. We regularly find ourselves having to advise customers that there are IT services which they simply cannot have because their Broadband speed is too low. This is normally because they are on the old ADSL ‘standard’ Broadband, but for many even 10Mbps would not be sufficient, and that will only become more so as technology advances.
Cloud based or ‘Hosted’ services for email, backup, data storage and line-of-business applications are now the norm, and businesses require both fast and reliable Internet connections in order to take advantage of these.
Fibre Broadband (aka FTTC, aka ‘Superfast Broadband’) is a fast, cheap service for those lucky enough to get it. Up to 80Mbps speeds, for around £30-40 per month. But why can’t we all get it? Why for example are the majority of companies in Yarmouth’s largest commercial area, the Harfreys and Gapton Hall, still waiting for this service?
Because providers, which includes BT, prioritise domestic rollouts over commercial ones. To get Fibre Broadband, the cabinet needs to be upgraded, hence the name ‘Fibre to the Cabinet’. You only have to look at the density of users, which means that upgrading a single cabinet to fibre in a residential area may provide hundreds of connections, compared to a few dozen in a commercial area.
This helps towards the coverage statistics which state what percentage of the population is able to access ‘Superfast Broadband’. And more connections means more upgrades, and more revenue from other services such as paid for TV channels. Not many businesses pay for anything more than the Broadband connection itself, so no wonder that providers prefer the domestic market!
Another factor is that those businesses who simply must have fast Broadband will already be using BT’s Leased Line options, which are very expensive and provide strong revenues for the providers which means they are less keen to offer low cost alternatives.
The government have stated that priority should be given to Fibre Broadband rollout in commercial areas. I fear that without a real commercial imperative to prioritise business over residential connections, that this will have to be backed up by strong regulation to ensure that it happens quickly enough.