Internet woes hinder small business growth

Simone Ziaziaris
(Australian Associated Press)

Internet service woes are forcing small businesses to return to the dark ages of manual print outs and fax machines and are preventing companies from growing, new research suggests.

A survey by online accounting software company Xero of more than 1,000 small business owners across Australia aimed to assess the effectiveness of internet connections and speeds including the National Broadband Network (NBN) and other internet services.

It found a third of small businesses are having difficulty accessing fast, reliable and affordable internet connections which in turn, is affecting business productivity and hiring.

Despite the hype surrounding the NBN, around half of Australian small businesses are still paying for poor phone and internet connectivity and are struggling to bring in new customers, the research found.

In the 2016/17 financial year, 2.8 million premises were connected to the national broadband infrastructure, bringing the total to 5.7 million.

Since the beginning of the NBN rollout in 2010, the service has faced criticism from dissatisfied customers over ongoing delays, high broadband charges and poor installation experiences.

Xero said regional businesses are particularly at risk when it comes to sourcing a secure and fast internet connection.

Accountant Natalie Payton, from Wagga Wagga-based firm Paisley Robertson, told the survey that a recent three-hour internet blackout directly impacted customer services and business revenue.

“We’re very reliant on being connected to our clients, and huge issues arise for us when we’re cut off,” Ms Payton said.

“With some of our clients, their internet connection is so poor that we have to go back in time and manually print out coding reports and fax them across.”

Xero’s Australian managing director Trent Innes said that with small businesses employing half of all Australian workers, it’s imperative that all businesses have access to quality internet connections to help them do their jobs better.

“A fast and reliable internet connection is vital to helping small businesses grow and compete,” Mr Innes said.

“In this day and age, access to decent internet based on location shouldn’t be a factor that decides a small business’s success or failure.”

While Australia has the sixth-fastest mobile connection in the world, on average, its fixed internet connection is one of the worst in the developed world, according to Xero.

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