25,000 SMBs receive grants of up to £3,000 to get superfast broadband as government urges more to apply
More than 25,000 SMBs have received grants of up to £3,000 to improve their broadband as part of the Super Connected Cities voucher scheme, with thousands more currently applying, the government has said.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told TechWeekEurope that 26,255 vouchers have been issued to date, with £39.9 million handed out at an average of £1,521 per business.
The scheme has been extended to March 2016, but the government expects at the current rate of adoption, the funds will be exhausted by the end of the year.
The remaining money will be handed out on a “first come, first served” basis to firms in 50 cities and DCMS has urged more firms to apply.
Super connected cities voucher scheme
“The Government’s broadband connection voucher scheme is proving tremendously popular and we are now issuing around 1000 vouchers every week,” said digital economy minister Ed Vaizey. “Businesses need to be properly equipped for all the challenges of the digital world in which we live and I urge all eligible businesses to apply as soon as possible to make sure they don’t miss out on the fantastic offer.”
To be eligible for a voucher, applicants must be an SMB, registered charity, social enterprise or sole trader and the cost installing business broadband must be more than £100. There are 500 registered suppliers for the scheme, including BT, Virgin Media Business and TalkTalk Business and gigabit FTTP network operators Hyperoptic and CityFibre.
Unsurprisingly, most of the grants have been issued to London-based businesses, with 8,857 SMBs receiving vouchers. This is followed by Leeds-Bradford with 3,085, Manchester with 2,294 and Birmingham on 1,629.
Apart from London, the north-west (including Manchester) has been the most active region with 4,188 vouchers received, ahead of Yorkshire and the Humber (including Leeds-Bradford) with 3,781 and the Midlands (including Birmingham) on 2,660. Northern Irish businesses have received 1,356 vouchers and Welsh firms 1,126 but just 1,043 Scottish SMBs have benefited.
The superconnected cities vision was originally intended to provide the winning cities with funds to build superfast broadband and public Wi-Fi networks. However following legal challenges from ISPs, this was watered down to a voucher scheme, although the Wi-Fi aspect has remained unaffected, with BT and Virgin Media building wireless infrastructure for city councils.
Under EU regulations, the government is forbidden from intervening in urban areas, so the existing Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme aiding local authorities is limited to rural areas.
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