§ Mr. Stephen O'Brien
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps her Department is taking to help small and micro businesses counter their proportionally greater cost of maintaining access to the internet than larger businesses; and what assessment her Department has made of(a) the price difference between commercial and household access charges for small and micro businesses and (b) the price difference between narrowband dial-up offers and broadband offers. 
§ Mr. Timms
Government action to help small business maintain access to the Internet include the following improvements to the R&D Tax Credit with an extension of the first year ICT capital allowances as a result of the Budget for 2003 to 2004A reduction in the minimum tax-deductible allowance for IT equipment from £25,000 to has enabled more small and medium sized enterprise to claim the SME Tax Credit;An extension of 100 per cent. of the first year capital allowances for small businesses investing in information and communications technology for another year.
In January 2004, the Department produced guidelines on Home Computing Initiatives in association with Dfes and the Cabinet Office to help businesses take advantage of the £500 annual tax exemption on loaned computer introduced by the Chancellor in 1999. This exemption enables businesses to loan computers to their employees as a tax-free benefit and helps smaller businesses maximise organisational performance through improved ICT skills.1196W
A mass-market broadband solution defined as broadband priced to target residential and small businesses alike is available to approximately 85 per cent. of the UK population. This definition excludes more expensive high-capacity leased lines frequently used by larger firms.
Oftel's Business Use of the Internet: Small and Medium Business Survey (Q 14, August 2003), revealed that 44 per cent. of UK SMEs included in the survey with broadband internet access having previously used a narrowband connection, decided to upgrade because broadband was a similar price to their previous internet connection.