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Shropshire business leader calls for further broadband improvements

By James Pugh | Business Picks | Published:

Broadband improvements still need to be made to ensure big businesses stay in the county, a business leader has warned.

Richard Sheehan, chief executive of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce

Richard Sheehan, chief executive of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, said infrastructure, including high-speed broadband, is crucial to ensure businesses are given the platform to grow.

It comes as faster broadband has driven a £9 billion increase in turnover for businesses in the UK, according to new figures.

The boost has come from the Government rollout of superfast broadband, which the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) confirmed has now reached almost five million homes and businesses.

"As a county riddled with innovative companies they need high-speed broadband to be able to conduct their business," Mr Sheehan said.

"Particularly with most higher growth companies, if the infrastructure is not there to support them then they will look elsewhere to grow their business.

"It is important to continue to focus on broadband infrastructure, and continue to look for solutions to ensure that it is the best it possibly can be for the business community.

"Broadband has improved in many places. You don't see the dial-up modems anymore.

"I still think we are a long way behind the curve. I know of businesses on the outskirts of Whitchurch which have faced great challenges trying to grow their business.

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"We continue to attract inward investment and our market towns have so much to offer. But we must be able to provide decent level infrastructure including broadband, transport links and telephony.

"We have the potential to deliver a work-life balance which will create employment and economic growth."

Digital minister Margot James said an independent assessment of the rollout showed the benefit to local businesses.

She said: “Our rollout of superfast broadband across the UK has been the most challenging infrastructure project in a generation, but is one of our greatest successes.

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“We are reaching thousands more homes and businesses every week, that can now reap the clear and tangible benefits that superfast broadband provides.

“We are helping to ensure the downfall of the digital divide.”

Ms James said the target was to ensure everyone in the UK has access to fast and affordable broadband by 2020 and there should be nationwide gigabit connectivity by 2033.

Currently, the highest coverage rate is in north east England, followed by south east England and the West Midlands.

Openreach chief executive Clive Selley said the superfast broadband rollout was one of the country's great engineering achievements.

“It is great to see businesses across the UK reaping the benefits of faster broadband speeds,” he said.

“We've also recently introduced a raft of lower wholesale prices to help drive higher take-up of faster fibre services which will help to further fuel the boost to the UK economy.”

The Evaluation of the Economic Impact and Public Value of the Superfast Broadband Programme report said for every £1 invested in superfast broadband, business had seen a £12.28 benefit.

The report, covering the period 2012-2016, also claimed the rollout had lead to a reduction of almost 9,000 jobseekers allowance claims and the creation of 49,000 local jobs.

James Pugh

By James Pugh
@JamesP_Star

Shropshire Star Business and Farming Editor.

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