Perhaps unsurprisingly the Government’s new Satellite broadband subsidy scheme, which aims to help 300,000 of the most remote rural premises in the United Kingdom (note: Wales has a different scheme) to get a better connection, has got off to a slow start with only £8,400 spent of the £60 million funding.
The scheme, which offers grants of up to around £350 that can be used to reduce the initial Satellite cost (e.g. installation and commissioning costs plus potentially 12 monthly subscriptions), was first launched at the start of December 2015 (full details) as a quick-fix solution for the Government to meet their original ‘2Mbps for all’ Universal Service Commitment (USC).
However Satellite is far from a perfect solution, with poor latency, high data usage costs and peak-time speed throttling being particularly common bugbears (Satellite Might Not be the Best Fix). Equally some of those that the subsidy is intended to help have recently expressed reservations about the approach (here).
Never the less a little over one month has now passed and as such the Chi Onwurah MP, Labour’s Shadow Business and Culture Minister, was keen to find out “what proportion of the planned budget for the rural satellite broadband voucher scheme has been spent.” The answer soon came.
Ed Vaizey, Digital Economy Minister, responded:
“Launched in December 2015, the basic broadband subsidy scheme, along with the rollout of both commercially and publicly funded superfast broadband, fulfils the Government’s commitment to ensure every home and business in the UK can access speeds of at least 2 Mbps. Up to £60 million of funding has been made available to support the roll out of the scheme across the UK, which runs to December 2017. To date, the total value of the installations ordered is £8,400.”
A basic bit of division suggests that if the level of £350 per subsidy / voucher is maintained then the scheme has so far only helped around 24 properties to get a faster connection via Satellite. In fairness, the separate business-focused Connection Voucher scheme got off to a similarly slow start, albeit largely due to poor promotion, restrictive eligibility criteria and limited coverage (those aspects were later improved upon and eventually the scheme became quite popular).
In that sense we’ll avoid being too quick to judge the latest scheme’s progress and anybody interested should perhaps check out the Government’s online tool, which will help you to test whether the scheme has launched in your area or not. Credits to Shropshire broadband campaigner Patrick Cosgrove for highlighting the update.