The UK’s new National Infrastructure Commission should be given responsibility for producing a plan to deliver better digital infrastructure, according to a new report.
The study by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said that Britain’s competitiveness is at risk because government is failing to properly plan for affordable broadband connections to businesses.
A survey, carried out as part of the research, found that manufacturing companies view internet access as critical to their businesses and are planning to invest more in internet equipment over the next five years.
Lee Hopley, EEF chief economist, said: “Manufacturers need best in class provision if Britain is to take advantage of the next industrial revolution and government cannot afford to think it is job done.
“While the quality of networks isn’t currently an issue, companies are paying inflated sums to have proper access and are fearful they will not have competitive access five years’ down the line.”
She said that the government has focused on household internet access, despite the economic returns which could be available from providing better internet connectivity for businesses.
EEF found that 91% of manufacturers said a high speed internet connection was as essential to their business as electricity and water.
More than half use sensors connected to the internet and automated machines at least once a week.
Almost half of companies said their connection costs have gone up in the last two years, whilst a quarter of small companies and half of medium size companies are paying more than £5,000 a year to gain proper access. This figure rose to 89% for large companies.
Only a third of companies said that their current connection would be adequate for their expected needs over the next five years.