By Max Clarke

Despite the fact that the Government has just announced that it is moving ahead with the second wave of funding for super-fast broadband across the UK, the Cloud Industry Forum has warned that unless Britain increases its regional broadband coverage with high speed services, then the economic recovery will be impeded.

Andy Burton, Chair of the Cloud Industry Forum, stated: “If as a nation we are going to grow out of our current financial crisis business up and down the land need to be able to operate, compete and create wealth and this can only effectively be done from a level playing field where internet connectivity is concerned.

“It is small to medium sized businesses that represent our broadest employer base, our diversity and creativity, and it is they who are best placed to create the Jobs and revenues the country needs. However, their route to market in many cases is hampered by poor ADSL speeds which in turn restrict their ability to benefit from advances in technology like cloud computing, making it more costly, laborious and challenging to operate. It’s not only a matter of competitive edge within the UK, as the UK itself is failing behind emerging markets like China who have already contributed toward the decline of UK manufacturing. We cannot afford to give away our opportunity to thrive in a digital age by failing to provide the infrastructure that can harness our tremendous UK entrepreneurial capability.”

Small business owner Richard Banister, managing director of Baniftec, stated: “I live some 22 miles from Victoria as the crow fly's and nearby Kent communities of Pootings, Crockham Hill in the majority of cases can only get a 500kbps ADSL service which was introduced by BT in about 2003 rural communities had been promised a minimum service of 2mb by 2012 by the last government, sadly this commitment does appear to have fallen by the wayside. What is so tragic is that I am so close to London and yet I might as well be on a desert island.”

The government has pledged to make the UK the best place for super-fast broadband in Europe by 2015 and under the announcement made last week £50m will be made available to local authorities around the UK. It is estimated that the funding would help connect a further 800,000 homes to next-generation broadband.

"This is very much a locally-driven process and we encourage bids from all local people with plans for improving broadband in their local area," said Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

At the time they were announced Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt said: "Our aim is to use these rural market testing pilots to discover exactly what needs to be done to make super-fast broadband commercially viable in rural communities".

Despite announcing four areas in October - North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Herefordshire and the Highlands and Islands - no firm or technologies have yet been chosen for the areas.

Whilst welcoming the continued commitment and investment, Andy also voiced concern saying that “the level of funding was insufficient to meet the legacy of need across the country, and that the delivery of high speed internet should be seen as an essential utility in this day and age and not a luxury accessible to the privileged.”

The call from the Cloud Industry Forum comes following the recent report from OFCOM into broadband speeds which revealed that the UK’s average actual fixed-line residential broadband speed has increased by over 25 per cent over the past year from 4.1Mbit/s to 5.2Mbit/s as internet service providers (“ISPs”) increasingly move to offer higher speed broadband packages.

The research also found that the move to faster headline speeds has led to a growing gap between the actual speeds delivered and the speeds that some ISPs use to advertise their services. Differences between headline and actual speeds are often caused by broadband being delivered over copper lines which were originally designed for phone calls; hence speeds slow down over long and poor quality lines, and because of electrical interference.

Andy Burton continued: “OFCOM claims it has strengthened its Voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds which it introduced in 2008. ISPs who sign up to the revised Code commit to give consumers a more accurate and consistent estimate of the maximum speed likely to be achievable on their line. ISPs also commit to help consumers improve their speeds and give consumers the option to leave their contracts early without penalty.

“For small businesses based in rural or even semi-rural parts of the country broadband internet connectivity is vital to the economic prosperity of the entire nation. With the advent of the Cloud now, more than ever, fast reliable access to the Internet is essential if we as a nation are to remain competitive,” he concluded.