SMEs lack broadband knowledge

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This means the majority of SMEs do not appreciate what broadband can offer them and remain sceptical about its value.

Three-quarters of SMEs do not use broadband services according to Oftel.

Availability and price are also stumbling blocks to broadband adoption by SMEs, but this lack of understanding is the real inhibiter according to supplier Easynet.

‘If a SME can’t afford the £59 or so that a monthly connection costs, they have more serious problems than worrying about the price of broadband,’ said an Easynet spokeswoman, speaking at the Broadband for Business conference.

The lack of awareness is the result of providers trying to sell broadband to SMEs on the back of consumer campaigns. Broadband is about more than speed, according to Carl Geraghty, research manager for NOP research group.

‘If SMEs don’t have a clear understanding of broadband they won’t be able to make a clear business case for adopting the technology, but the message that one of the largest benefits of broadband is speed is still pervasive among SMEs,’ he said.

Adoption of broadband is higher among SMEs in the technology sector, and there was good uptake in other sectors, such as manufacturing, when SMEs were fully informed of what broadband could offer their company.

‘It is a “show me” not “tell me” approach that is getting the message across,’ said Melissa Ream, policy advisor for the British Chambers of Commerce.

But it will require a concerted and coordinated effort from business organisations to inform SMEs of the benefits according to Anthony Story, who runs the Broadband Show, which travels around the UK educating SMEs about the benefits of broadband.

‘SME’s fears can be overcome and the demos we show them are invaluable, but our funding runs out at the end of the year. It will need organisation such as the CBI, the BCC and other trade organisations to get together with help from government so there is no overlap and SMEs can get the right message,’ he told VNU News Centre.

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