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Law for Business

Knowhow - guidance - precedents

19 DEC 2012

Is slower internet access harming business outside the UK's urban hubs?

So far the evidence has been anecdotal but with the serious prospect of increasing disparity between the UK's rural and urban broadband speeds, there is now an obvious risk that some areas are getting left behind.

For employees, flexible working and rising fuel costs for long distance commutes are just two of the reasons why access to high speed broadband services for areas outside the major conurbations of the UK may no longer be a luxury.

But for businesses setting up in more cost effective locations or re-locating for a variety of commercial reasons, modern infrastructure increasingly has to mean high speed, high quality and reliable internet connectivity.

For the residents of one village, Ainderby Steeple in North Yorkshire, the frustrations of what for some has been termed the World Wide Wait look set to end. Under a scheme funded by the government body Broadband Delivery UK, BT and the European Development Fund, super-fast broadband has been recently brought to the village. The expectation is that download speeds of up to 80Mbps will be possible. Compared with the UK 6Mbps average download which in some areas drops to 2Mbps, this venture puts Ainderby amongst the very best locations in the UK for high speed broadband. Of course this comes at a cost, believed to be in the region of £ 36 million.

Critics of such projects would however do well to consider figures published earlier this year by independent research group Centre for Retail Research. Its figures for online retail activity indicate that in 2011 Britain had by some margin the biggest online retail sales in Europe: 12% of total retail market share compared with 9% of nearest rivals Germany. That figure is projected to have grown by another 14% this year. Ecommerce has been big business for some time and is rapidly changing the way business is done as well as posing new challenges as to how it is regulated. The Ainderby project is a useful step along that path to growth and has demonstrated that it is possible to bring the digital age right into remote areas. "Insufficient bandwidth" is hopefully an error message that fewer and fewer of us will see popping up on our screens in the future.

Rebecca Quinn

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