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Ofcom is aiming to improve access to communications services - including broadband connections - for the UK's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The industry watchdog said business consumers are "a critical part of the UK communications sector" and it wants to ensure they can take advantage of competition and innovation in the market wherever possible.

Ofcom added that it is seeking to provide regulatory protection where necessary for such companies.

"Large businesses are typically able to secure good outcomes by virtue of their scale and a highly competitive market to supply services to them," it stated.

"Ofcom is concerned about whether or not similarly good outcomes can be achieved by SMEs."

One of the key aims for the communications regulator is to promote the widespread availability of super-fast broadband.

In an autumn report, it will assess gaps in super-fast broadband coverage for residential and business users in both rural and urban areas.

Ofcom said it is already working closely with government and industry to identify potential ways to fill these gaps.

"Better availability for SMEs as well as residential consumers is a priority," the regulator stated.

It is also aiming to improve service quality and choice for SMEs, noting that many companies operating in the sector have diverse needs and may use a combination of business and residential services.

Ofcom believes protection for SMEs is vital, allowing them to navigate the market confidently, with effective protection and redress if things go wrong.

The regulator is particularly concerned about businesses in the UK countryside, which may not have access to next-generation communication services.

"Communications services like broadband and mobile can be particularly important for businesses in rural areas," it stated.

Ofcom revealed it is working with its Advisory Committees in the nations to understand the experiences of SMEs in more remote parts of the UK.

"This will help shape future policies to support small businesses at local and regional level," the regulator added.

Ed Richards, Ofcom's Chief Executive, said the watchdog recognises what a critical sector of the economy the SME community represents, and how important digital communications technology is to this group of business consumers.

He claimed there have been developments in the range of services available over the past decade, but warned that SMEs are not benefiting as consistently as they should be from high-quality digital communications.

"Our work will help ensure the market is delivering for businesses of all kinds and to make sure that the right protection is in place for them if it isn’t," Mr Richards stated.

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