One of the region’s biggest business organisations has backed national calls demanding improved digital and mobile connectivity for businesses.
East Midlands Chamber* has countersigned a letter to Culture Secretary John Whittingdale highlighting how a lack of investment in – and action on – digital technology is impeding business growth, including mobile coverage, supplier competition and insufficient broadband coverage and speeds.
The letter, signed by all 52 accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK, formed part of the Chamber Network’s response to the Government’s consultation on the UK’s future digital strategy.
It called for the Government to match the scope and ambition of other countries to create a solid foundation for future business growth. Specific areas of concern highlighted by the submission were:
Broadband – 24Mbps is the speed the Government defines as superfast, but this does not compare favourably with many other EU countries which define it as 30Mbps+. To ensure strong performance, there must be funding equivalent to the rollout of superfast broadband to extend ultrafast broadband across the UK.
Improved competition – Improved competition and investment in the broadband market will boost access and choice for businesses. Ofcom’s review of the UK’s digital communications markets has come at the right time, and we look forward to the full findings and recommendations of this review.
Mobile coverage – Mobile phones are crucial to businesses for many aspects of their daily work and for this reason poor mobile coverage must be eliminated. The Government, regulators and service providers must act now to target areas of low connectivity, including many business parks and primary road and rail routes.
5G technology – The Government must ensure necessary funding is in place to drive research into 5G in order to make this a reality in the next decade. If the UK is a leading player in technologies like 5G, it can roll out the technology more quickly to give businesses a strong competitive advantage and boost productivity.
Diane Simpson, the Chamber’s Deputy Chief Executive and digital technology lead, said: “The digital landscape is always evolving and firms here in the East Midlands have an enviable track record as global innovators and leaders. However, the infrastructure they rely on is failing to keep pace.
“The UK may lead the world in ecommerce, but many offices, business parks and road and rail routes lack reliable, fast and affordable mobile and broadband connectivity.
“It is unacceptable today that businesses should have to operate with poor broadband connectivity. Access is fundamental and should be viewed as being equally as important as other utilities.
“The Government must address connectivity shortcomings for businesses on industrial estates, in cities and rural areas to allow them to compete in a global marketplace.