How to grow a business successfully? There are all sorts of ways to do it, but what about the bare-bones basics, stuff like a good, strong, fast and reliable internet connection?
We’ve known for some time that Britain must be better connected if we want to build successful small businesses. No wonder business start-up advice includes an absolutely essential good quality broadband connection. If you want to increase business profitability, you need effective internet services. So what’s the latest news?
Small business broadband providers under pressure
Britain’s biggest broadband providers recently promised to deliver a better deal to small businesses, and a ‘fairer’ deal on internet access. Which is all very well… but it doesn’t touch the wider issue, which is that thousands of smaller businesses still struggle to get any internet connection at all, never mind a good one they can rely on. It’s a postcode lottery. If you’re out in the sticks or live somewhere remote, you’re fortunate to have any connection at all.
Business groups have hailed the government’s new promise as a good start, since it gives small businesses the right to cancel their broadband without paying ‘break fees’ if the speed of the connection doesn’t meet their expectations or fulfil promises. On the downside, it serves to illustrate how crap the situation has been so far, with countless small businesses trapped in pointless long term broadband contracts, paying through the nose for a service that often just isn’t worth having. Worse still, many smaller business have been threatened with big fines for refusing to pay for poor connection speeds and dreadful post-sales service.
A growing number of revolutionary types feel internet access should be a human right, freely available to every business and individual on the planet. We’ll see if that ever happens. In the meantime the latest move brings the way small businesses are treated in line with the way consumers access the internet. It’s taken a long time, since June 2015, but the agreement has finally been signed by people like BT, Daisy Communications, Talk Talk Business, Virgin Media and so on. Next comes a ‘phasing in’ period, lasting until 30th September 2016, designed to give providers time to sort themselves out.
How much time does your business lose to slow broadband?
Virgin Media research reveals how every small business employee in Britain loses around 15 minutes a day to slow broadband connections. The new rules say small businesses must be given an accurate reading of their likely broadband speed, not just the usual finger-in-the-air guess. If you want exactly that and you don’t hear anything from your business broadband provider soon, make a noise. Contact them by email, keep at it, and don’t give in until you get satisfaction.
Why you deserve decent broadband
- Ofcom’s says one in five small UK businesses are unhappy with their broadband speeds
- Ofcom also says many businesses don’t know why they’re not getting the service the salesperson promised
- The Federation of Small Businesses says fibreoptic coverage for business lags way behind consumer services; 83% of homes have broadband access compared to only 68% of small business premises
- Almost 50% of organisations based in business parks are stuck with slow speeds of less than 10Mbps
Britain’s long awaited rural broadband rollout
Until the government’s rural broadband roll-out is complete, coverage will probably remain rubbish for smaller businesses. As the FSB’s National Chairman John Allan said, “Improvements to broadband provision must be fast-tracked, so that every small business can realise the opportunity online to improve their business.”
Bad business internet connections are why advice about increasing sales – and advice about business growth in general – so often include demands for faster, more reliable broadband connections. With a bit of luck faster broadband for small businesses might just be on the way, along with much fairer contracts. It’s about time. The new Ofcom rules should force providers to boost speeds, resolve infrastructure problems and do it all pretty damn quickly. Let’s hope so.
On the far horizon there’s LiFi – which is WiFi via light – and that should solve connection and strength issues for good. Until then, gird your loins and hope against hope you’ll get a decent connection in your premises.