As the Head of Marketing for an Internet Service Provider in Britain, I wanted to offer my thoughts on the UK’s connectivity specifically for business users, reflecting on the points he made and how to make the connectivity landscape an even playing ground.
The BBC report was based on research from a cross-party group of 100MPs, the British Infrastructure Group, who have jointly called for BT’s Openreach division to be split off from the parent company. They claim that 5.7 million people in the UK don’t have access to at least 10Mbps broadband, furthermore, they suggest that Britain is falling behind in comparison to countries such as Japan, South Korea and even Spain, despite the subsidies received, many parts of the UK still have no access superfast broadband.
Whilst I would completely agree that more people should be able to access better broadband connectivity and am an ambassador to the cause of improving the UK’s internet infrastructure, I have to challenge the claims from British Infrastructure Group as Rory has done in the article. Some of the information the report was based upon is simply out of date, some of the public money promised to BDUK has now been removed with the full funds not being received yet in many cases. Funding is critical to such a large scale project, holding this up or removing it altogether will of course delay progress and some of the arguments in this report are missing the real issue.
C4L and BT
I think it is good that it is not just ISP’s like C4L or BT that are recognising the UK has excellent capabilities, it is simply not utilised fully or spread widely enough, the government are also recognising this not just for residential users, but commercial customers too. Last year we saw support provided to businesses from the Government Connection Voucher Scheme, which granted up to £3000 towards the installation of business-grade broadband. This grant was successful because it addressed the issue of awareness and accessibility, it isn’t that faster connectivity is not possible, because it is, the real issue is providing options and competition against the cost to expand and install new fibre optic networks, so that new areas can access faster and more direct routes to the internet. Sadly the scheme was so successful that the funding was exhausted very quickly and brought to a premature end with no current plans to instigate it again.
Business grade connectivity
However, despite these grants and government backed incentives, if we look from a business point of view, many companies still don’t understand and take advantage of ‘business-grade’ connectivity such as Leased Lines. This lack of understanding is stifling them from using emerging services such as the Cloud and outsourced storage, these tools can accelerate business growth but are dependent on high quality connectivity. I believe this is because ultimately business owners are also consumers, their eyes are turned by the media and reports such as this one which focus on headline speeds and often reflect residential service offers, they hear the ‘bells-and-whistles’ promotions and buy into it as a suitable fit for their business. The thing they can be forgetting is these are designed for domestic use, for those who are increasingly downloading music or TV programmes, they are not designed to be business-grade, have quick SLAs or offer synchronous performance, which a business requires to operate competitively.
In the same way residential products have moved on leaps and bounds, so have business grade products and options, and at ever more competitive rates, it should be added. Too many businesses are unaware of the important difference and aren’t making the necessary investment, the knock on is less income to build out critical new fibre infrastructure, instead trying to squeeze every last drop of performance out of the aging copper network. It makes sense to optimise the use of this technology for the vast majority of residential users, but, the future is fibre, moreover, the present should also be fibre, the sooner businesses understand this and invest in it, the better for them and for the economy as a whole. BT and Openreach are working very hard to upgrade parts of its network to utilise fibre, it has done for many years, but businesses need to recognise they are by no means the only ISP out there. Businesses should be utilising aggregators who offer a much wider choice of service providers and can perform price comparisons to provide cost-effective methods to deliver higher performance connectivity.
We need to remind ourselves that the connectivity capability often exists, we just need to find new ways of accessing them, rather than relying on a 100 year old technology, we have to make it easier and more cost effective to install new fibre routes to reach them.
To read the original article Matt was prompted by, click here.
Author: Gary Barter, Head of Marketing, C4L