The Federation of Small Business' (FSB's) report on broadband speeds has highlighted the fact that poor connectivity is having a detrimental impact on firms in the north-west.
This is according to Elaine Moore, the chairman of the Merseyside arm of the organisation. She believes bad connections are holding firms back and leaving them behind their urban competitors.
Ms Moore said: "Doing business online is becoming increasingly important - some 96 per cent of FSB members say broadband is a key business requirement - so it is very concerning that we are still in a situation where more than a third of small businesses in the north-west view their unreliable connection as a major barrier to growth."
The FSB's report demonstrated that in terms of broadband reliability, speed, service levels and switching to new providers, many business owners and entrepreneurs said they were 'somewhat unsatisfied' or 'very unsatisfied'.
According to the study, 40 per cent of respondents are 'satisfied' with the upload speeds they have access to, while 43 per cent were unhappy with the download speeds they experience. These results are disappointing considering that high-speed internet is now regarded as an essential resource for most businesses.
In terms of the service they encounter when an issue arises, almost a third (32 per cent) were 'dissatisfied' with the speed of fault repairs and the same percentage were unhappy with the customer service they received.
The report reveals that almost one in five experience problems on a daily basis with their broadband.
More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of the FSB's north-west members describe email as 'critical' to their business, while a fifth felt that it is 'very important'. For web browsing, 42 per cent felt it is 'critical', while 31 per cent described it as 'very important'.
In terms of engaging with customers, half of the respondents cited a good broadband service as 'critical' and 30 per cent felt it was 'very important'.
Ms Moore added: "These gaps and weaknesses - including the ‘two-speed digital economy’ between rural and urban areas - need to be addressed as a matter of priority with a minimum of 10 Mbps to all business premises by 2018/19, and a pledge to deliver minimum speeds of 100 Mbps to all by 2030."