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Govt fails the UK SME broadband test

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The UK Government should use legislation to reduce the cost of broadband and speed-up its roll-out across the country, according to a hard-hitting report from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

It warns that continuing problems concerning cost and the lack of availability of high speed Internet access is "inhibiting the development of ecommerce and ebusiness" in the UK.

The report, BCC's priorities for E-Commerce 2001, by the BCC's E-Business Advisory Group, lists several issues voiced by small businesses concerning the Government's ecommerce policy.

Uppermost is a call for Government to scrap its obsession with setting targets and instead focus its resources on improving infrastructure, online security and consumer confidence.

The BCC - which monitored the views of 135,000 small businesses - claims that the Government's target to get a million small firms trading online by 2002 should be ditched.

Pointing to the Government's own figures published in the Department of Trade and Industry's International benchmarking report, some 540,000 small firms are currently trading online although BCC points out that this figure is beginning to show signs of levelling out.

Instead of focusing on targets - which may not even be met - the BCC argues that Government should concentrate on improving public confidence in e-commerce, invest more in tackling cybercrime, and improve access to broadband services.

Sally Low, E-Business Policy Adviser at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "British companies are not in the business of fulfilling aspirational targets set by any government.

"They are however alert to the competitive benefits of trading online, and where these exist, businesses will drive and will respond.

"The role of government should be one of enabling business in the most efficient and effective manner, and not to preoccupy itself with assessing and measuring targets," she said.

The BCC is to meet ecommerce minister Douglas Alexander today to present the findings of the report. ®

Related Links

BCC’ s E-Business Taskforce Report - BCC' s priorities for E-Commerce 2001
http://www.ukonlineforbusiness.gov.uk/Government/bench/Bench2001/index.html
International Benchmarking Study 2001 - DTI

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