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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Broadband failing to reach UK businesses
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Most small businesses by-passed by broadband revolution
A tiny percentage of UK businesses are taking advantage of broadband, according to figures from telecoms watchdog Oftel.

Less than 10% of the UK's 1.2 million small and medium-sized firms have taken up a high-speed net connection.

Oftel puts it down to the late start the UK made in getting broadband out to consumers and businesses, but said things are picking up.

Businesses account for just 30% of ADSL services - broadband via the telephone line.


Traditionally it is more difficult for businesses to get broadband. They don't sit in city centres but in out-of-town business parks

Peter Scargill, Federation of Small Businesses
Patchy coverage

E-commerce Minister Stephen Timms admitted that there is work to be done.

"The recent surge in interest in broadband is great news but there is more to do to drive take-up across the country," he told Computing magazine.

He said that the arrival of new and exciting content will help promote broadband.

But business leaders doubt whether this will be enough to tempt companies to get fast internet access.

Peter Scargill, technology chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said the real problem is the fact that small businesses are located out of the city centres where broadband coverage tends to be concentrated.

"Traditionally it is more difficult for businesses to get broadband. They don't sit in city centres but in out-of-town business parks," he said.

"I know an immense number of small businesses that can't get ADSL or cable and the alternatives are horrendously expensive," he said.

Around one third of the UK is not able to get ADSL or cable broadband.

Government help

The Federation of Small Businesses itself, situated just outside of Blackpool, was only ADSL-enabled six months ago.

He said the government could play a huge part in improving coverage, for example by offering tax breaks to companies that provide services to rural areas.

The poor take-up of broadband among businesses will be bad news for the government which has pledged to make the UK one of the best places in the western world for broadband by 2005.

Last month a survey from internet measurement firm Nielsen/NetRatings revealed that the UK was at the bottom of the broadband league table, below France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

BT is determined to do its bit to encourage businesses to take up ADSL services.

It has a raft of initiatives, including a broadband ambassadors' scheme, which rewards so-called evangelists for spreading the broadband word in local areas.

Delegates at a series of summits held by BT in May to discuss the slow take-up of broadband cited security worries and general confusion about the technology as the main reasons why businesses have not so far made the switch.


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