Too many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are failing to unlock the commercial potential of broadband, a new report has claimed.
According to the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), online applications and uses have the potential "to pervade every level of business operations to positive effect".
"Yet even where advanced digital infrastructure exists, there can be a significant lag in the taking up of those benefits from some SMEs," the group stated.
BSG said it is "imperative" to understand both infrastructure and non-infrastructure factors, in addressing issues related to the take-up and exploitation of broadband and connectivity.
But the group said there can be "no single answer" to getting SMEs doing more with their broadband connectivity.
Instead, tailored approaches across benefits, sector, location and more are needed to help businesses understand the opportunities afforded by high-speed solutions, it claimed.
"Understanding the ‘benefit sell’ at the level of the SME is crucial not just for those selling broadband-enabled products and services, but for policy-makers too," BSG added.
The group suggested that "a more nuanced understanding of pathways, adoption routes and network effects" will allow the government to assist the UK's SME base and improve take-up and exploitation rates.
With this in mind, BSG has made five recommendations it believes can help small companies take full advantage of connectivity solutions.
It has called on the government to expand the evidence base on SME broadband use, and for policy makers to have access to "better information" on how to communicate the benefits of being active online.
BSG added that industry and government need to better understand the requirements of SMEs for broadband, in terms of bandwidth and other characteristics.
Additionally, it said the Department for Culture, Media and Sport should empower Broadband Delivery UK to assist local authorities with demand-stimulation activities.
"It is imperative that this is perceived as being equally important as the physical delivery of infrastructure on the ground, given the nature of these large scale projects," the group stated.
Finally, BSG has called on the government to drive broadband usage and uptake through its engagement with SMEs via government services and transactions.