Many small companies, especially in rural areas, have long complained that slow broadband speeds are holding back their business, preventing them from expanding and creating new jobs.
Now businesses throughout the UK are being urged to apply for a £2500 voucher for gigabit broadband speeds before the scheme closes due to high demand.
The Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme has already helped more than 7000 UK businesses and surrounding homes, who have used the vouchers to contribute to (and in many cases fully fund) the installation cost of a full fibre gigabit capable connection.
The £67 million scheme was initially expected to run until March 2021, but high demand for vouchers means that funds are now expected to be committed a year earlier, and perhaps even sooner if the current success of the scheme continues to grow. To date, demand for the scheme has been strongest in the South West, followed by the South East, Yorkshire and the North West.
Minister for Digital Margot James yesterday said: “Our modern Industrial Strategy is clear on the importance of connectivity, as we build a full fibre Britain that is fit for the future. These vouchers provide practical and immediate help to firms struggling with slow broadband speeds. I encourage small businesses around the UK to apply now.”
“To ensure as many businesses and homes benefit, the maximum value of the voucher will be reduced from the current £3000 to £2500 in a move that will encourage neighbouring businesses to “pool” their vouchers.
“This will enable the scheme to reach more properties without the need for any additional funding. We expect more than 1000 additional businesses and homes to benefit as a result of this change.”
DCMS will be carefully monitoring take-up following this change to the scheme rules to determine whether there are locations in which a higher voucher value would be justified.
The scheme is part of a series of Government initiatives to build a Britain with nationwide full fibre broadband coverage by 2033, making sure no communities are left behind. In addition to the voucher scheme, the Chancellor recently announced £200 million for an ‘outside-in’ approach that will see full fibre broadband rolled out in the hardest to reach rural locations at the same pace as the rest of the country.
The Borderlands, Cornwall, and Welsh valleys will be amongst the first areas to be targeted.
FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry yesterday said: “Access to good broadband is vital for small businesses across the UK, and with the clock ticking on this scheme, it’s important small businesses don’t delay if they want to apply for funding.
More information on the Gigabit Voucher Scheme, including details on how businesses can apply can be found at https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/