RURAL businesses in Huntingdonshire are crying out for broadband connections with usable bandwidth, but the Federation of Small Businesses, which represents many of them, is less than impressed by this week s Digital Britain report by Minister Lord Carter

RURAL businesses in Huntingdonshire are crying out for broadband connections with usable bandwidth, but the Federation of Small Businesses, which represents many of them, is less than impressed by this week's Digital Britain report by Minister Lord Carter.

Huntingdonshire was the first area in the country to be consulted directly by Ofcom on that and other issues, when 70 members of the public and business community attended a meeting organised jointly by the regulator, Huntingdonshire District Council and Huntingdonshire Business Network.

Rural businesses made it plain at the meeting that not only did they want broadband but that it should be delivered at the speeds they were paying for.

But, while the principle of broadband-for-all was welcomed by the FSB, the Government's commitment to ensure universal access to fast broadband at the expected 2mbps by 2012 lacked ambition and showed the UK was in a time-warp, the federation said.

"Research by the FSB shows that a third of small businesses already have 2mbps broadband speed, yet struggle to do core day-to-day business activities," said Malcolm Lyons, Huntingdonshire chairman.

More than half of small businesses rely on the internet for up to 50 per cent of their annual turnover, yet simple tasks, such as e-mailing, marketing, buying and selling, are time-consuming because their broadband speeds are letting them down, he added.

"The online world is crucial to small business development, especially for firms in rural Britain where businesses have been waiting for years for promised Government action to deal with the 'notspots' - where there is no broadband access.

"By 2012, £1 in every £5 will come from online commerce but, if small businesses are to compete, the Government must take bolder action. Around 60 per cent of small businesses want a minimum broadband speed of 8mbps. But, with Japan leading the way, making high speed broadband of 90mbps available to everyone, the FSB urges the Government to do more.

"Small businesses are ready to play their part. Now the Government needs to step up and take the country into a future when UK businesses are internationally competitive.