Nearly 70% of rural SMEs hobbled by poor internet

Vodafone survey finds faster broadband drove online sales up 30% for half of firms

“SMEs in regional and rural areas are not competing on a level playing field as they do not have access to high quality broadband”

“SMEs in regional and rural areas are not competing on a level playing field as they do not have access to high quality broadband”

 

Some 69 per cent of rural SMEs have said that slow and unreliable internet speeds prevents them from working efficiently and undermines their potential for growth, according to research carried out by Vodafone.

The survey also found that 37 per cent of these small businesses would have to relocate to a nearby town or city if internet connectivity was not available.

The research was published by Vodafone at National Digital Week 2016 in Skibbereen, Co Cork.

Vodafone undertook additional research among a number of firms based at the Ludgate Digital Hub in Skibbereen, Ireland’s first rural digital hub providing a 1GB internet connection from Siro, the telecoms joint venture between Vodafone and the ESB.

Half of the respondents said having faster broadband had resulted in an increase in online sales of around 30 per cent, with the majority intending to employ more people on a full or part-time basis in the next 12 months.

Commenting on the results, Anne O’Leary, chief executive of Vodafone Ireland, said: “High-speed broadband internet connectivity will mean that businesses can base themselves in any location and compete on a level playing field with some of the biggest organisations in the world.”

Free broadband

Vodafone has announced that, in partnership with Siro, it will offer support to businesses and learning hubs around the country via a new initiative to provide 1GB broadband connectivity free of charge for the next two years. This could potentially support more than 150 businesses, the company added.

Sean Atkinson, Siro chief executive, said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of the Irish economy, but traditionally SMEs in regional and rural areas are not competing on a level playing field as they do not have access to high quality broadband. We aim to transform this by putting each of our roll out towns on a par for high speed connectivity with leading international hubs, such as Tokyo and Hong Kong.”