Gift Focus - Jan/Feb 2020 (Issue 117)

183 FSB BUSINESS FEATURE ABOUT FSB As the UK’s business support group, FSB is the voice of the UK’s small businesses and the self-employed. Established over 40 years ago to help its members succeed in business, FSB is a non-profit making and non-party political organisation that’s led by its members, for its members. As the UK’s leading business campaigner, FSB is focused on delivering change which supports smaller businesses to grow and succeed. FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including access to finance, business banking, legal advice and support along with a powerful voice in Government. Each year FSB also runs the UK’s Celebrating Small Business Awards. More information is available at . You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy and on Instagram @fsb_uk. gives people the right to request a download speed of 10Mbps. When it comes to full fibre, the UK is also still way too far behind most EU countries, ranking at 25 out of 28. But the appetite seems to be there – encouragingly we found that small firms are keen to improve their connections, with over half of business owners revealing they want to adopt full fibre when it becomes available in their area. With full fibre rollout likely to take place in urban areas initially, which already experience better connection, there’s clearly a need to open discussions with infrastructure providers to make sure areas that are most in need of connectivity are included. It may be that this requires more active intervention in the market than has previously taken place before, to both reduce technical and legal barriers to deployment in rural areas and encourage competition Essentially, it is key that Government, industry and regulators work together to remove barriers to the roll out of full fibre, to help ensure no one is left behind. ‘NOT SPOTS’ Looking towards mobile, small firms are still being blighted on a daily basis with poor signal. More than half of small businesses in rural areas in the UK say they receive unreliable connection on their mobile phones. Targeting these mobile ‘not spots’ in rural areas by creating a Shared Rural Network among the four main mobile network operators, which Government has pledged its support for, will be key. It would allow mobile phone users to connect, regardless of what phone network they are on, to try to bridge the gap in mobile phone reception. On top of other improvements including making sure the scheduled spectrum band auction of both 4G and 5G take place without delay, this would go some way to help bridge the widening communication gap in the countryside. With so many of our small businesses unable to do the simplest of tasks because of a lack of connection, we will continue to campaign on the issue. Improving digital connectivity is an urgent priority to ensure our 5.8 million-strong small business community remains the engine of the UK economy.