A study into the potential benefits for businesses that have ‘superfast' broadband in Cornwall has found that the majority surveyed have been able to save time and/or money.
Superfast Cornwall is a project funded by the European Union, BT and Cornwall Council, and managed by Cornwall Development Company. It aims to deploy 130,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cable throughout the area, bringing broadband - the vast majority of which is fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) - to 95 per cent of homes and businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The Superfast Cornwall Evaluation, undertaken by commercial research firm SERIO and Buckman Associates, was given out at random to 11 per cent (88) of the businesses in the area that have adpopted superfast broadband.
Survey respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements - with 82.9 per cent indicating that ‘superfast' broadband has saved their business time and/or money.
Seven of the 88 businesses attributed at least a proportion of an increase in their employee numbers to superfast broadband, citing improvements in sales and efficiency, access to wider markets and the ability to process more work as their reasons for hiring extra staff.
However, two businesses said they had made redundancies because faster broadband had made their businesses more efficient, and they therefore did not need so many staff.
Overal, though, the results were positive. The study found that more than one-fifth (20.5 per cent) of businesses surveyed said that it helped safeguard jobs that had been at risk, as a result of connecting to superfast broadband. In total, 23 of the connected businesses attributed creation or safeguarding of jobs to superfast broadband.
More than three-quarters of those who reported creating or safeguarding a job had been connected for between 12 and 18 months, and 21.3 per cent for longer than 18 months.
"This indicates that ‘superfast' broadband can lead to job creation soon after connection," the study claims.
At a press event at BT Centre in London, Adrian Dawson head of projects and partnerships at Plymouth University/SERIO revealed that if the figures are grossed up it would mean that some 767 jobs could be created, and that 1,390 jobs could be safeguarded, as a result of Superfast Cornwall.
However, Dawson added that there could be a "margin of error" with these statistics and that many of the safeguarded jobs are likely to reflect the economic climate.
But he added that a small proportion of companies that had already created jobs expected to employ more people in the future as a direct result of the superfast broadband.
"Even though these are short-term benefits, many businesses told us they will continue to expand," he said.
One such organisation that has benefitted from Superfast Cornwall is manufacturing company ACROL UK. Its technical director, Alun Morgan, said that switching from its 1.5Mbps ADSL line to its Superfast Cornwall connection of 92Mbps has enabled it to improve productivity, customer service and flexibility.
"Before we had superfast broadband and our new ERP system, we couldn't run a ‘materials and resources report' without crashing the system; we usually left them overnight. Now we can get results in an instant," he said.
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