Vehicle servicing business may be driven away by poor internet connections
A UK-wide fleet servicing business based in Perry, near Huntingdon may be forced to move if its internet connections don’t improve.
Fleet Assist Ltd is unique in the UK, managing vehicle servicing and repairs on behalf of 27 car leasing companies. Much of the work is done via the internet and involves thousands of transactions on behalf of 7,500 garages, with large amounts of data being uploaded and downloaded daily.
The company employs 21 people, many of them are local, and about a third of them live in the village of Perry. Fleet Assist is currently bidding for two more large contracts and hope to employ another six people in the near future if successful.
Managing Director Mike Smith said: “The poor quality of Perry’s internet connection is having a serious impact and has resulted in the company being forced to make several compromises in the way we conduct business. For example, data transfers are done after working hours once staff have left for the day, and customer requests are often dealt with offline.”
Giving employees remote access to site servers has proved impossible for the company, which has trialled alternative methods of connection, such as satellite broadband. However, this way of working is not seen as a long term, sustainable solution.
Mr Smith said: “Fleet Assist is an innovative employer and our future investment in real -time, on demand services for our customers is being kept on hold until a solution can be provided. Unfortunately, we are even considering an imminent move to a town or city, possibly in another county, in order to access faster communications.”
Changing lifestyles mean more people are working and studying from home and they need better broadband access so they can all use the internet at the same time.
The Wilson family in Great Staughton are a good example of the difference that faster broadband will make to people’s lives – saving time, money and stress.
Kathy Wilson says: “We are a normal family running our businesses and lives from home but we face a huge disadvantage just because our broadband speeds are so slow. We normally get a little less than 2Mbps, sometimes less than that.”
Kathy works from home as a chartered accountant and much of her work involves downloading data from clients and large Excel files from her member of staff, uploading tax returns, company accounts and corporation tax returns to HMRC, as well as company accounts to Companies House.
She explains: “I use accounts and tax preparation software, which is all supplied as downloads. The updates often give an expected download time, but you can be sure that with our slow internet it will be several times slower than it states.”
Kathy’s 22 year old son lives at home and is doing a law graduate conversion course, which involves several hours a week watching online lectures. After being at university he finds the 2Mbps painfully slow and it suffers from repeated stoppages.
Her husband is also due to start working from home in 2013 and needs to connect via VoIP and Citrix, which will mean extra internet traffic.
Kathy added: “We look forward to the success of the Connecting Cambridgeshire campaign bringing us a much improved speed that will make our working lives so much easier and significantly less stressful in the VERY near future.”
Ready to expand – with superfast broadband
Method Creative is a growing creative agency with a portfolio of diverse international clients. A recent office relocation to the South Cambridgeshire village of Cottenham has allowed the company to expand with the addition of three new staff and some exciting projects in the pipeline.
“While it’s hugely exciting to be growing at such a rate, we need the right technology to support this phase in our development to effectively compete with London as a regional agency,” says company founder Kirsten Corrigan.
“Decent broadband is a pre-requisite for a creative agency that needs to work with and transfer large image files every day.” Supporting the Connecting Cambridgeshire campaign as a Broadband Champion is a particularly relevant step for Kirsten, who also lives in the village and has access to better broadband from her home.
“The irony is that if I pop home during the day I can upload files much more quickly to client servers and that really isn’t conducive to running a slick operation! We really hope the campaign moves forward at the rate we require so our business can continue to thrive from our new office on the outskirts of Cambridge,” added Kirsten.
Residents and businesses in South Cambridgeshire are leading the charge to bring access to superfast broadband to the area by registering their demand. Andrew Lansley MP said: “This is excellent news for South Cambridgeshire and shows how strongly people feel about bringing high speed broadband access to the area.
“Telecoms providers generally offer good broadband coverage in urban and commercial areas, but this does not reach enough rural areas in the county, which is why I would urge everyone in Cambridgeshire to register to show where there is high demand for better broadband so we can attract investment from suppliers.”
Taken from an article in the South Cambs residents magazine. August 2012.
Watch our Interview with Kirsten Corrigan Here.
International hospitality business is not being served
Wine Trainers Ltd is an international business based in Grafham, which works with the hospitality industry providing training, products and telemarketing services.
The company relies on the internet for many aspects of its business including the website at www.wstci.co.uk and having a good broadband connection is particularly important to its House of Straus division, which runs a training centre in Sri Lanka.
Company Director Jenny Turner said: “The 500k broadband speeds we get in Grafham are laughable and not conducive to modern business requirements, but we are grateful for that compared to other Cambridgeshire villages.
“Faster and more reliable connections are essential to our business development. It irritates us intensely when other areas of the country receive fibre optic cabling for nothing when we have to pay extra for a business communication medium that is not ‘fit for purpose’.
“It is absolutely vital for business development for the Connecting Cambridgeshire project to succeed especially in high-tech Cambridgeshire. Why are we at a severe disadvantage?”
Poor broadband forces home-based business to commute
Mortgage and finance advisor Mark James has been forced to rent office space away from his home-based business in Grafham, near Huntingdon because the broadband is so slow.
This means he has to spend valuable time commuting each day to run JD Mortgage Services from offices at Wyboston Lakes, so that the company can use the internet to exchange large documents with clients.
Mark says: “The company couldn’t work without internet access; email is the life-blood of our business. Like lots of businesses, we would not be able to look after our clients and obtain new work with out an internet connection and a website presence.
“That’s why, after three years trying to work from home, we’ve been forced to rent office space in a different area. Quite frankly, the broadband speed in Grafham is impossible to work with and the business would have suffered.
“This seems stupid. I have to commute to the office each day when, with super fast broadband, I could work from home as I’d always intended when I moved here! I could spend far less time commuting and much more time talking to my clients and doing work!
“I’d also save money on the cost of renting office space and fuel costs. The money I’d save would more than cover the small increase in costs if superfast broadband was available in my home village.
“It seems to me to be very important that suppliers know how hard we find things at the moment and hopefully the Connecting Cambridgeshire campaign will ensure that rural areas won’t miss out on all benefits that superfast broadband brings.”
Ready to expand – with superfast broadband
e-Go aeroplanes is an innovative Cambridgeshire company manufacturing new, light aircraft designed to go at 120 miles per hour – but it can only get ‘super slow’ broadband.
The small but growing company is based on a small industrial park in the village of Conington and is looking to expand. It needs faster broadband to benefit from using VOIP digital telephone systems and IP cameras so they can take their contact numbers – and customers – with them when they move to a larger site in 2013.
Chairman Malcolm Bird has looked into installing a leased line to improve their broadband speed and latency but has found it is far too expensive.
He says: “I am very keen to support the call for better broadband for Cambridgeshire.
The lack of capability is preventing us organising ourselves now and making our move transparent to our callers.”
Malcolm became aware of the need for businesses to keep up with the latest digital developments when a fire completely destroyed the company’s design and administration offices, where a team of designers had spent years developing their first launch product.
He recalls: “We looked on in disbelief at how fast a fire can take hold and run through a building. Luckily no one was hurt and as a result of our use of cloud based storage, we were able to send our design and admin’ staff home to carry on using their laptops and home computers the next day without any loss of computer data.”
“A few years ago, even if we had held offsite backups we would have lost days if not weeks or months of data. With the new cloud based archive, this aspect of the fire was almost irrelevant.”
Poor broadband affects students’ online learning
Dr Anabela Pinto-Poulton lives in the South Cambridgeshire village of Orwell and runs Cambridge e-Learning Institute, an online education business, from home. She needs a fast broadband connection to deliver live lessons and interact with her students in real time.
She says: “Recently, the delivery system I use has been constantly falling and disconnecting me because my internet is too slow. This is frustrating for the students who are paying to have a lesson and the lesson flow is constantly being interrupted by slow traffic.
“It is yet more embarrassing that some of these students come from developing countries where they have faster broadband in their villages than we have in the supposedly technologically advanced UK.”
Dr Pinto-Poulton comes from Portugal, where all the communication wiring was upgraded to fibre optics in the eighties, making the country’s internet networks far more advanced than the UK,
She added: “It is very sad that UK has been left behind as if it was still living in the pre-history of communications. Our internet is worse than in some developing countries.
“My business is suffering because I cannot provide more internet support or lectures due to the inadequacy of the broadband. This is not the way to promote small business and economic growth in this country.”