UK ISPs take steps to assure Internet service quality for small businesses


Pantiles - Royal Tunbridge Wells picture courtesy of Chris Whippet [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Pantiles at Royal Tunbridge Wells – representative of a shopping strip with small businesses

BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk to Work on New Business Broadband Code | ISPReview

My Comments

All too often, when there are discussions about assuring Internet service quality, these discussions focus on consumers who are primarily downloading content from the Internet. But small businesses and telecommuters are easily left out of the equation.

These users have particular needs as far as Internet service goes. For example, they frequently upload data; whether to transfer data between colleagues using an online file exchange like Dropbox or BitTorrent Sync, to use a cloud-computing service, or to use IP-based telecommunications services like Skype to talk with colleagues in town or across the world. Similarly, they rely on these Internet services to “keep the pot boiling” and if these services underperform or fail, their earning potential is reduced very heavily and the “pot doesn’t boil”. But they don’t have the bargaining power that a big business has because they work on a very small cash flow and have fewer employees with some relying on one who is the “chief cook and bottle washer”.

Linksys EA8500 broadband router press picture courtesy of Linksys USA

Decent internet at a reasonable price is essential for small businesses

ISPs have often forgotten about this class of user by having them either use consumer-grade Internet services or prefer them to sign up to a leased-line or similar “big-ticket” Internet service for their business needs. This is typically shown up by product lists for small-business Internet service having the only action that a potential subscriber can do is to request a quote for their service rather than looking at a tariff chart to compare costs. It is even though some services like leased-line services have prices that are particular to the business’s location and needs. Similarly, small businesses, telecommuters and similar users may not have the need or be able to afford a “big-business” service like a leased-line.

The main ISPs in the UK have taken this head-on by working on a code-of-practice for provisioning Internet to a small business or similar user. This factors in upload speeds, the availability of next-generation broadband “at the door” and service-level agreements. As well, at the moment, ISPs that use BT Openreach’s infrastructure have the ability to sell a service-level-agreement option with faster repair times but it is not always that quick to have problems remediated.

There is a call in the UK for certain small-business Internet services that can be provisioned on a self-install basis using existing infrastructure like ADSL2, fibre-copper (FTTC/VDSL2) and the like to have the tariffs and packages listed on the ISP’s Website. Similarly, Ofcom is requiring ISPs who use the Openreach infrastructure to support the simplified switch-over arrangements for their small-business services where these services use the same infrastructure. As well, they want Broadband Delivery UK to set targets for the level of reach for business-grade next-generation Internet.

Personally, I would like to see small-business broadband that uses existing infrastructure be offered at reasonable prices and these services to come with a decent bandwidth for uploading and downloading along with a service-level agreement that covers the contracted throughput and the time it takes to remedy service faults. If the service requires new infrastructure to be pulled from the street or the building’s infrastructure hub such as FTTP fibre-optic or cable Internet, there should be a published quote for this kind of requirement.

As well, small businesses, whether working from home or other premises such as a shopfront should be factored in when it comes to assessing the quality of Internet service and the level of competition available to these users. Similarly, multi-tenancy business developments like office blocks or shopping areas need to factor in access to business-quality broadband service for their tenants as a key drawcard feature.

At least there is somewhere where action is being taken to provide proper value-for-money Internet service to small businesses, start-ups, telecommuters and similar users.

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