Among the findings of a recent government report about superfast broadband in the UK are claims that superfast broadband rollout so far has led to job creation and a £12.28 benefit for firms for every £1 invested by central and local authorities.
The Evaluation of the Economic Impact and Public Value of the Superfast Broadband Programme report, by The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), covering 2012 to 2016, claims that the fact that superfast broadband has now reached almost five million homes and businesses (Openeach puts the figure at 10 million) has provided noticeable, measurable and business and economic benefits.
Fewer Jobseekers, More Jobs
For example, according to the report, superfast broadband has driven a reduction of almost 9,000 jobseekers allowance claims, and the creation of 49,000 local jobs.
What Is Superfast Broadband?
Superfast broadband refers to connections with broadband speeds of 24 megabits per second and above.
Superfast broadband is more available in some parts of the UK than others. For example, the highest rate of superfast broadband availability is in North East England (97.19%). Also offering high rates of superfast broadband availability are South East England (97.07%) and the West Midlands (96.56%).
Unfortunately, those who live and work in Northern Ireland are currently treated to the lowest rates of availability in the UK at 87.74%.
The growth in the levels of superfast broadband availability has been given a boost by factors such as Openreach, the firm that runs the vast majority of the UK’s telecoms infrastructure, reducing the wholesale price of broadband.
This is thought to have helped take-up for superfast and fibre broadband services by homes and businesses, and given competitors e.g. Sky and TalkTalk the opportunity to reduce the cost of using the network, provided that they can get enough sign-ups.
Back in March last year, Ofcom (the telecoms regulator) announced that BT has agreed to legally separate from Openreach, which owns and operates the UK’s broadband infrastructure. This move was intended to enable greater competition among broadband providers and greater investment in the network infrastructure.
Fibre has offered greater broadband speeds and reliability, but at the moment, most connections have fibre-optic lines up to the local street cabinet, but then copper phone lines from the cabinet to the house.
The government says that its aim is to give all of the UK full-fibre broadband (fibre to and from the cabinet) – rather than rely on broadband delivered over copper networks, by 2033.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Broadband is now an essential service for business, and businesses would obviously welcome any improvement in broadband speeds in the UK as it would undoubtedly help UK companies to become more competitive, and would boost the economy.
Unfortunately, while those who are able to benefit from superfast and (full) fibre broadband are clearly reaping the benefits, this is not the case in many areas of the UK. For example, in April this year, a survey by consumer watchdog ‘Which?’ has revealed that more than half of UK customers across 12 providers, are having problems with their broadband service or price.
Although this latest government announcement paints a positive picture of superfast broadband in the UK, the UK is now only at 35th place in the global average broadband speed league tables. This is because it has been too late in embracing a full-fibre solution – FTTP (fibre to the premises). Many critics have pointed to UK infrastructure provider Openreach shying away from FTTP because of the perceived costs and level of difficulty of large-scale rollouts.
For the time being then, UK businesses have to rely on the slower FTTC (fibre to the cabinet), and this has put UK businesses at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in many other European countries.
Major improvements to broadband speeds for UK businesses in most areas are still a long way off as the UK may only actually have 7% full fibre coverage by 2020, with full coverage unlikely for another 15+ years.