The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has praised the UK government’s plans to introduce universal ‘fast internet’ by 2020.

Fast broadband

There are a wealth of statistics to suggest that small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) throughout the UK rely on the internet. A study from the Federation of Small Business (FSB) found that almost all of the small businesses surveyed rated the internet as “highly important” for their operations, but only 15% are “very satisfied” with their broadband connection.

According to the BBC, statistics from the government show that 83% of homes and businesses in the UK currently have access to a superfast broadband connection of 24 Mbps. This is projected to rise to 95% by 2017, but even a ‘fast’ broadband speed of 10 Mbps remains unavailable to some rurally-located businesses.

Universal service obligation

Whitehall has pledged to remedy this situation by introducing a universal service obligation of 10 Mbps by 2020. This would provide companies across the UK with the legal right to request an affordable fast broadband connection, putting it on the same footing as other basic utilities such as electricity and water.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it. We’re getting Britain – all of Britain – online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe.”

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey added on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We want to upgrade the universal service obligation to provide fast broadband speeds of 10Mbps for the very hardest to reach homes and businesses. Those at the end of the line, the last 5% that we are desperate to get to. So we’re putting in place this regulation, that we’re going to consult on at the beginning of next year, to make sure that if you’re in that last 5%, you can demand, and you’ll get it.”

Shot in the arm

The Telegraph reported that the CBI said the plan will serve as “a shot in the arm” for the UK’s economy. John Cridland, director-general of the CBI commented that “putting an end to the digital divide will be a shot in the arm for regional growth.” He went on to note, “for businesses today, high quality digital connectivity is as crucial to growth and productivity as roads, railways and airports.”