A third of SMBs have never heard of gigabit broadband

This lack of awareness could hinder UK target of reaching 85% full-fibre coverage by 2025, advisory group warns

A third (33%) of the UK’s smallest businesses have never heard about Gigabit-capable broadband, according to new research commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

This lack of awareness was even higher among consumers, with almost 60% of those surveyed admitting that they were not aware that Gigabit-capable broadband existed. 

The findings were revealed today in a new report by the Gigabit Take-up Advisory Group (GigaTAG), assembled by Which?, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

GigaTAG suggested that the low awareness of Gigabit-capable broadband, especially among businesses, might lead to lower demand for the service, which in turn could hinder the UK government’s goal to reach 85% coverage by 2025.

This has prompted GigaTAG to issue a range of recommendations for the government, which include improving the digital skills of small businesses and the self-employed and the promotion of clear and common terminology in advertising campaigns, which would raise awareness and promote the benefits of upgrading

GigaTAG emphasised the importance of promoting the benefits of Gigabit, having found that two in five (41%) of those surveyed were unclear about how it differs from their current package. 

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The advisory group also suggested that the government seek inspiration from footballer Marcus Rashford and consider implementing a targeted voucher scheme aimed at lower-income households, which could take a similar approach to the free school meal voucher system. 

The GigaTAG report found affordability to be the main obstacle to the adoption of Gigabit-capable broadband by lower-income households, being cited by 44% of those surveyed. Other common barriers included low willingness to spend more on broadband, with only one in five (21%) of consumers willing to pay more for gigabit broadband. 

Commenting on GigaTAG’s recommendations, FSB Digital Policy chair Kieran Charleson said that the COVID-19 pandemic had “demonstrated the vital importance of connectivity”

“Small businesses need good quality internet but all too often they are left grappling with a poor connection and slow broadband speeds, potentially losing vital business and hampering their productivity. Gigabit is a fantastic opportunity for businesses to futureproof and many small firms are already engaging with the new technology or are eager to start.”

According to Charleson, digital skills training and targeted information programmes “need to be a vital part of the Gigabit rollout”.

“Equipping businesses with the confidence, skills and knowledge will empower them to engage with the new technology and to use it to their advantage,” he added.

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