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Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme Goes Live in First UK Cities

Posted Saturday, December 7th, 2013 (7:24 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 1,730)
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The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills has announced that the Government’s Connection Vouchers scheme, which uses part of the £150m Urban Broadband Fund (“Super-Connected Cities“) to help SME businesses install superfast broadband (30Mbps+), has finally started to go live in 22 cities across the United Kingdom.

The final scheme doesn’t appear to have changed much since the autumn trial and continues to offer grants worth up to £3,000 +vat for individual premises (i.e. any small or medium sized firm of up to 249 employees with a turnover no greater than Euros 42m per year) to help them get connected to a 30Mbps+ capable broadband service. However the eligible business still has to pay the VAT, line rental and any general service charges.

The first 10 major cities will be opening for applications during December 2013 and the final 12 should be ready by March 2014. The scheme, which will gobble around £100 million from the UBF budget, is expected to remain open until March 2015.

Matthew Hancock, Enterprise and Skills Minister, said:

I’m delighted that on the national day for small businesses, Small Business Saturday , we can demonstrate our commitment to making it easier for small businesses to grow.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the British economy and responsible for nearly half the job creation in the UK. That’s why we are removing barriers to growth and supporting them, so that they can create jobs and compete in the global race.”

The 10 Largest UBF Cities (Funding)

* Edinburgh – Capital of Scotland (£10.7m)
* Belfast – Capital of Northern Ireland (£13.7m)
* Cardiff – Capital of Wales (£11m)
* London – Capital of England (£25m)
* Birmingham (£10m)
* Bradford + Leeds (£14.4m joint bid)
* Bristol (£11.3m)
* Newcastle (£6m)
* Manchester (£12m)

The 12 Smallest Cities

* Brighton and Hove
* Cambridge
* Coventry
* Derby
* Oxford
* Portsmouth
* Salford
* York
* Newport
* Aberdeen
* Perth
* Derry-Londonderry

It’s worth remembering that the money for all this wasn’t originally intended to be used on connection vouchers and indeed the Government had an ambition towards it being spent upon the construction of new “ultra-fast80-100Mbps+ capable broadband infrastructure.

Unfortunately the fear of network overbuilding triggered legal challenges from BT + Virgin Media (here) and meanwhile Europe also expressed competition concerns about investing state aid in urban areas, which the private sector should already be able to cover (here). In the end the Government decided it would be quicker to simply offer Connection Vouchers.

Sadly those hoping that the Government might extend the money to cover rural areas will be disappointed. Today London is among the first wave of UK cities to launch the voucher scheme. It will initially be available across 6 boroughs later this month and then it will be introduced in the other 27 boroughs during early 2014.

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11 Responses
  1. cyberdoyle

    BT say that 90% or more of the country will have ‘superfast’, so why does even more public money have to be spent to get superfast to the towns? Surely someone can see this is another con?

    • FibreFred

      Because 90% isn’t 100%?

    • New_Londoner

      @CD
      But this is about subsidising the cost of a fast connection (broadband or otherwise) for a small business, is not about building more network. Why should small businesses in cities not get govt support from time to time? And what has this got to do with BT?

    • gerarda

      and because superfast is only superfast for a proportion of those connected to a cabinet.

      However still a bit annoying to see yet more money being spent on a demand stimulation exercise the primary beneficiary of which will be Openreach

  2. dragoneast

    Isn’t it the case that lines connected directly to the exchange (not via a Cabinet) can’t get FTTC in most cases? I believe that this affects a number of lines in formerly industrial redevelopment areas such as London docklands, which host quite a few small businesses (as well as the tenements suitable for Hyperoptic/FTTP services). If so then at least this funding might be helping job creation and economic growth, rather than just a vote-grabbing exercise for the the TV watching/game playing couch potatoes, perhaps? Although civil servants and the responsible use of public money don’t usually go together.

    • The strategy that BT tends to adopt under BDUK for tackling exchange only lines is, where possible, to build new street cabinets. It’s obviously a little more complex to re-work the network for EoL’s than that but this seems to be what Openreach have been doing in some areas.

  3. Even with full commercial roll-out in urban areas there are still many dead spots – usually business parks with a low number of subscribers connected to a cabinet (thus making the modelling show no business case) or poor copper connectivity at the edges (so people are struggling to maintain 2mbps on DSL).

    Thanks to the rules from Europe the scheme is constrained to funding those places where FTTC like services haven’t reached, but to stop any claims of unfairness the scheme has to cover those who could now get FTTC (but don’t currently have it) as well as those who have to use other services (Wireless, FTTP, FTTB etc).

    The biggest number of requests that we are seeing are multi-tenant business units who want to aggregate their requirements to get high speed (1G) connectivity to share between 20 companies at the same price they’d pay for FTTC

  4. cyberdoyle

    well let us hope the altnets get this funding in the cities to provide real NGA instead of souped up copper for a few. If a few companies got together and pooled their vouchers they could get a real fibre connection into the area.
    What’s the betting openreach stop them? After they have publicly stated they can bring ‘superfast’ to 90% now they are saying the final 10% is in the cities? haha.
    We have said for years that FTTC cannot deliver, and it looks like the grassroots movement is right after all. Now is the time to stop patching up the copper and bring the big boys in, with real fibre. Otherwise by 2020 the whole job will be to start again.

    • FibreFred

      “We have said for years that FTTC cannot deliver”

      Except it can and is.

      As for all to do again maybe you should read up on what Point topic are saying about FTTP vs FTTC

      Once again same old comments without understanding the bigger picture

  5. cyberdoyle

    Fibre Fred – If it can deliver then why can’t everyone in the cities get it? It isn’t delivering very well at all from the sound of things. When grassroots people have enough money to pay Point Topic and Mason Analysis for ‘reports’ we might hear a slightly different story. Once again, you make the same old comments without LOOKING at the bigger picture. I can’t offer to understand YOUR bigger picture because you just believe copper can deliver the future, without looking at what can do it better, cheaper, faster and in a more futureproof and carbon friendly way.

    • FibreFred

      Many cities as in heart of the cities have EO lines which makes things more difficult but not impossible.

      So you are saying Point Topic are being paid off then to agree with the Government and BT? Oh dear…. conspiracy radar is going crazy

      I don’t believe copper is the future, no-one does. I’m realistic as is Point Topic as is the Government as is Europe as is BT, the cost of going straight to FTTP is too high a price to pay for anyone at the moment, the government doesn’t want to pay for it now neither does the private sector.

      Its as simple as that. Even B4RN with their micro delivery cannot deliver to a few thousand homes without extra funding/loans and that has free labour thrown in!

      As the point topic interview states, the network will be built out over time delivering our needs now and then built out again in the future once the demand is there.

      Its not “all to do again” at all, it will just be another phase, one that might not even need any future government funding.

      I can see the bigger picture and end game, always have. Its fibre to the home, no question, the question is when and how its paid for and always has been. Show me how many other copper countries are going straight to fibre. There was only one Australia and that looks like its changing its mind now.

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