Lindy Druitt says the internet is "pretty good in town".
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Druitt is the owner of Mudgee accounting firm Nortons and says getting the National Broadband Network has vastly improved internet connectivity for her business which employs 15 staff and turns over around $2 million.
"We do get periods of quite slow internet which impacts us reasonably dramatically", says Druitt but her main concern is for small businesses in the region around Mudgee.
Druitt says as soon as you go five or 10 kilometres out of town you potentially lose mobile service and internet access is mainly by ADSL line.
"It comes and goes," she says. "That makes communication with them very difficult. It's crazy, it's just really living in the past.
"We manage in town but there are quite significant businesses out of town who basically operate their businesses around the internet, they don't use it. They are not even investigating the benefits of what they could do online."
Druitt is apparently not alone in her experience with data provided exclusively to MySmallBusiness by online accounting software provider Xero showing a third of Australian small businesses have difficulty accessing fast, reliable and affordable internet connections, hindering their growth.
Xero surveyed more than 1000 small business owners across Australia looking at how phone and internet connectivity affects business productivity, hiring and growth.
It found around 48 per cent of the small businesses surveyed struggle to reach and bring in new customers as a result of their poor phone or internet connection, 70 per cent say poor connectivity is hindering their efficiency and productivity and 62 per cent believe the quality of their customer service is affected by poor phone and internet connection.
Regional businesses are particularly at risk when it comes to a secure and fast internet connection.
Trent Innes, managing director of Xero Australia, says there is a major digital divide between small businesses in regional towns and those in metro areas.
"If Australia is truly committed to our small businesses, it's imperative that all businesses have access to quality internet connections to help them do their jobs better," he says. "Whether they're in Melbourne CBD, or regional Darwin, we need to level the playing field. The roll-out of the NBN is a step in the right direction, and may begin to bridge the gap, but more needs to be done."
Innes points to Speedtest's Global Index, which shows despite having the sixth fastest mobile connections in the world on average, Australia's fixed internet connection is one of the worst in the developed world with Australia ranked in 53rd position.
Currently, our small businesses are being seriously let down by the below-par connectivity available to them and that needs to change.- Trent Innes
"If we want small businesses to succeed, we need to equip them with the tools to help them grow and perform," says Innes.
"Currently, our small businesses are being seriously let down by the below-par connectivity available to them and that needs to change."
Druitt says Nortons is wholly reliant on good internet connectivity, with client files and emails all stored in the cloud.
"If the NBN goes down we are out, we can't work, I have people weeding the garden," she says.
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