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The UK government’s decision to make access to 10Mbps minimum broadband speeds a legal requirement for everyone by 2020, bodes well for businesses struggling in remote parts of Sussex, Surrey, Kent and Hampshire.
Like all British businesses located a long way from the nearest exchange, they may have remained connected to slow broadband or have no connection at all for many years to come. Now, however, everyone will be legally entitled to the minimum speed.
Until now, broadband providers have often ignored remote households – and also some industrial parks which pre-date the broadband era – because laying new cabling or erecting a 4G antenna isn’t commercially viable. There aren’t enough consumers to pay for it and make a profit.
Luckily, the government puts growing the UK’s digital infrastructure before profit with the aim to encourage more businesses to expand in remote areas. Significantly, the new legal requirement also applies to urban “not spots” in London and other cities that still don’t receive good broadband connections.
Earlier in the year BT volunteered to be the universal service provider of the 10Mbps minimum, however, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has decided that it would not be an effective way to achieve the overall objective.
She may have listened to some commentators who suggested back in the summer that a voluntary arrangement would have made the roll-out reactive not proactive.
Instead, a regulatory approach, enforceable by law, should make high-speed broadband a reality for everyone, regardless of where they live or work.
Gary Jowett, from Computer & Network Consultants in Brighton, says: “The government’s announcement brings more certainty for businesses in the south east that are considering a move to a greenfield site or already based in a remote location. It should also increase business opportunities for farms, village shops and small rural start-ups. Additionally, it will enable companies based in cities and towns to consider using more homeworkers based in rural locations to support their sales and administrative activities.”
The potential benefit to all businesses and their customers is clear but the way in which the 10Mbps will be delivered more proactively is less certain.
That’s why any business planning a move needs to carefully discuss all the options with an independent IT consultant to assess where to move to and when. It’s not wise to assume that everywhere will be connected to 10Mbps in three years’ time.
Gary says: “With broadband now a core utility that’s as important as electricity or water, your business can’t afford to make poor decisions about where to locate. You need to weigh-up all the factors very carefully. While a cheaper leasehold arrangement in the country may look a good option on paper, an IT consultant can help you find out what plans service providers have to upgrade the broadband. While the minimum provision is a legal requirement, its enforcement in some areas may take longer than expected and that could disrupt your business plans.”