SMEs on broadband charge

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Broadband usage among Australia's small business sector has passed the 50 percent mark, according to Pacific Internet's Broadband Barometer.

The July research -- compiled by ACNielsen Consult -- found that 52 percent of Australian internet-enabled small businesses now have broadband connections, a year-on-year increase of 11 percent from June 2003.

Growth was driven by the adoption of xDSL which is now used by more than one-third of all online small businesses.

“The residential broadband price reductions that began in February 2004 have definitely fuelled broadband uptake among small businesses," said Dennis Muscat, managing director at Pacific Internet. "The July results show 39 percent of [these] small businesses use plans aimed at the residential market.”

While these companies are using residential plans, they are not set up for more advanced applications like VoIP and videoconferencing, he said.

Muscat predicted that there would be a shift to business plans that offer faster speeds, higher grades of service and are more robust.

“This will lead to an increase in the adoption of affordable broadband applications that were traditionally restricted to the big end of town because of high price points,” he said.

“While 59 percent of broadband small businesses considered broadband to have had a significant impact on the range of supported applications, there remains no 'killer applications' for broadband.”

The most widely used technologies among these businesses were firewalls (81 percent), network security (75 percent) and LANs (67 percent).

Data levels among the business surveyed aren't high. While 77 percent of these businesses use more than 500MB, only 14 percent used in excess of 5GB of data each month, the research said.

The research also found that 40 percent of small businesses think Telstra is responsible for driving broadband availability in regional areas and 32 percent think it's the responsibility of the Australian Government. A further 52 percent said their ISP should deal with spam and only 23 percent consider it to be their responsibility.

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