Fiber for Breakfast Week 34: COVID-19 Impact on Small/Medium Business—Internet Survey Analysis

Fiber for Breakfast Week 34: COVID-19 Impact on Small/Medium Business—Internet Survey Analysis

November 19, 2020

For those of us working and learning from home, internet has been essential to maintaining some semblance of normal life. But for business owners—especially those who run small and medium businesses—it’s been essential in keeping the doors open.

At a recent Fiber for Breakfast live video series, Matt Davis, principal analyst at Independence Research LLC, spoke about how small and medium businesses are dealing with their internet amid the pandemic—and how it’s exposed a need for reliability and speed.

Davis’ firm surveyed 500 small and medium business owners about their internet service during the pandemic. Half were businesses that had less than 25 employees, while the others were businesses that had more than 25 employees. What they found was reliability was top of mind for many businesses, as well as speed. They also found that many businesses either had or wanted fiber internet, and that during the pandemic a significant portion of them upgraded their service.

More than 50 percent of medium-sized businesses said they upgraded their company internet amid a pandemic. Both medium and small businesses said they also upgraded their videoconferencing tools, with 60 percent of medium businesses and 36 percent of small businesses reporting this to be true. Davis said videoconferencing has historically run middle of the pack, but as stay-at-home orders have required workers to stay at home, more businesses need them to operate normally.

“We’ve asked these type of investment questions for years,” he said. “Video conferencing is something that’s forged in the middle of the pack down with managed wifi solutions or those type of add-on services to your typical broadband technology. It’s pretty remarkable to see that kind of result.”

For those that did upgrade to fiber, nearly 60 percent of medium-sized respondents said their internet service and overall company productivity improved. More than 40 percent of small-sized respondents said the same. Davis said this is in direct correlation to the need for reliability as opposed to overall capacity and speed.

“We’ve seen this movement toward reliability being king for the past three to four years,” Davis said. “It used to be speed—speed was everything. But reliability has really increased. Of course that is going to continue as we move to cloud and collaborative sessions.”

And it’s clear to see why. Less than 4 percent of respondents said the loss of internet connectivity would have almost no impact on their typical productivity. Compare that to the more than 50 percent of respondents for both small and medium businesses who said their productivity would decrease to under 25 percent.

Even more surprising is that nearly half of small business respondents said they have no back-up connection if their internet goes out. For those whose productivity would come to a halt amid an outage, it could have huge impacts.

“Only a few say, ‘Hey, our internet was down, I can get by.’ This punctuates to me the utter importance of internet up time.” he said. “For small businesses, it amounts to about $40 billion or so that they’re losing in productive revenue generation when their internet goes down.”

Davis said for fiber providers, small and medium businesses are a market ripe with need. As the pandemic shows, businesses of all sizes are more cognizant of what solid internet can do, and a large portion of those surveyed want (or have) fiber. For network providers looking to expand their footprint, the local business community could be a huge boon.

“When a service provider is going head-to-head against a cable operator for a small business in a market, there’s a distinct advantage there if you have fiber and are able to offer symmetric services,” Davis said. “If I was a service provider entering a market, I would promote the reliability, symmetric bandwidth and the overall rock-solid nature of fiber.”

Join us for our next Fiber for Breakfast live video series on Wednesday, Nov. 25 at 10 am ET. The topic: What Keeps Public Officials Up at Night.