Around half (49 per cent) of all UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are dissatisfied with the quality of their broadband provision, a study has found.
Research conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) revealed that, despite the increasing availability of super-fast broadband in the countryside, many firms are still suffering connectivity woes.
Some 61 per cent of SMEs said they are unhappy with the speed of their connection, while 47 per cent have concerns over its reliability.
One in seven (14 per cent) said the lack of a reliable broadband connection is the "primary barrier" to their growth.
The FSB found a near-50 per cent gap in satisfaction levels when compared to urban businesses. Just 28 per cent of companies based in major towns and cities were found to be dissatisfied with their broadband.
Mike Cherry, National Policy Chairman for the FSB, said research "paints a worrying picture" of a divided business broadband landscape in the UK. He claimed that, unless this is addressed, it highlights "a clear obstacle" to growth in the coming years.
"We risk seeing the emergence of a two-speed online economy resulting from poor rural broadband infrastructure," Mr Cherry stated.
He claimed that continued poor connectivity in rural areas represents "a huge missed opportunity" for economic growth in many parts of the country.
"These gaps and weaknesses need to be addressed as a matter of priority with the minimum of 10Mb to all business premises by 2018-19, and a pledge to deliver minimum speeds of 100Mb to all by 2030."
The FSB claimed that improvements to the UK's broadband provision have been made in recent years and more packages are being targeted towards the needs of SMEs.
However, the federation believes more could be done, especially as just 16 per cent of rural businesses have access to super-fast broadband.
It said the government's strategy to deliver 24Mb broadband to 95 per cent of all users by 2017 is "not sufficiently ambitious", especially for the five per cent of mainly rural businesses left receiving just 2Mb.