THE BLOG
11/02/2015 11:21 GMT | Updated 13/04/2015 06:59 BST

Which comes First: the Heating or the Internet?

Fast broadband means that the location of a business can now be more of a lifestyle choice. Geography simply no longer is a constraint. Today, according to the FSB, half of all Scottish businesses are home-based, for example, sustaining nearly one in five private sector jobs in Scotland.

As an individual citizen, I value fast broadband so I can download programmes quickly from iPlayer or Netflix. (And also to ensure that my son, whose iPad is not just a device but seems to be an extension of his hands, can't grumble...) But as a small business, fast broadband is not just a good-to-have; it's now a necessity.

The entrepreneur who said to me recently that he "would rather switch off their heating than switch off the internet" is not an exception. A report last year by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) showed that 94 per cent of small business owners considered a reliable internet connection to be critical to the success of their business.

It influences where companies locate themselves. According to TechCityUK, access to broadband is one of the most important factors for digital businesses - who now employ 7.5 per cent of the workforce - in choosing their location.

And it's not about downloads either. More companies use the internet to deliver their products, not just to receive stuff: architects, or video production companies, or secretarial service agencies, all now need to upload and transfer colossal files. More companies than ever use cloud-based software and services to run their accounts and other business processes. There's an awful lot of information exchange going on.

The shape of British business is changing, due to the critical nature of the internet. So the faster our broadband, the more growth it is going to catalyse.

It is creating more home businesses too. Fast broadband means that the location of a business can now be more of a lifestyle choice. Geography simply no longer is a constraint. Today, according to the FSB, half of all Scottish businesses are home-based, for example, sustaining nearly one in five private sector jobs in Scotland..

The roll-out of superfast broadband has the potential to shift Britain's rural economy up a gear. Seven pilot schemes, aimed at helping to reach the "final five per cent" - those hard-to-reach areas of the UK not covered by existing plans - are now moving into deployment. For example, one of the trials in Exmoor will deliver superfast broadband via satellite. It will be crucial in driving profits for local businesses, and the Government estimates that rural economies are set to benefit by around £9 million every day due to the work being undertaken.

The quality of digital connectivity is now a significant selling point for towns and cities. Initiatives such as the Connection Voucher Scheme are encouraging companies to go superfast in 22 "super-connected" cities around the country - and the numbers are increasing.

So, broadband infrastructure is now pivotal to our economy and in the mainstream of business debate. And because we all want to go faster - from games-hungry teenagers to data-hungry companies - that is where it will remain.