Small firms miss out on broadband benefits

There is little point upgrading to a faster Internet connection unless it is properly integrated into working patterns

Some small businesses who have upgraded to broadband often are failing to benefit from it because of a lack of training, according to research published on Monday.

Brunel University spent three months earlier this year studying a selection of small businesses — both urban and rural — which were moving to high-speed Internet access. They tested how long it took staff to carry out a series of business tasks, and found little evidence that broadband was revolutionising businesses.

In the case of one rural marketing firm, staff actually took longer to complete their work after they got broadband. This was because they began to send information electronically to their customers, but continued to also post a hardcopy.

Urban companies were more efficient after they got broadband, but Brunel believes that a lack of training was still holding them back.

"Small and medium organisations need to be made aware of how to use broadband to its full potential," said Dr Jyoti Choudrie, operations director of the Brunel Broadband Research Centre. "It is so much more than a quick and cost-effective way of downloading large files, emailing or accessing the Internet. It sounds obvious but training in how to use broadband is key to using it effectively. Companies also need to be prepared to change their working practices to accommodate broadband.".

Ironically, most broadband training tends to only be available in rural areas, such as Cornwall, where the local authority and BT have worked together to make high-speed Internet services a reality.