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UPD BDUK Confirm First 4 UK Cities for Broadband Connection Vouchers

Wednesday, Jul 31st, 2013 (8:43 am) - Score 1,435

The government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office has this week launched a “market test” for its new Connection Vouchers Scheme, which is supported by the £150 million+ “Super-Connected Cities” (Urban Broadband Fund) programme and designed to help businesses cover the cost of installing a new superfast broadband ISP connection.

The original UBF approach was designed help expand the coverage of “ultra-fast” broadband (80-100Mbps+) into neglected areas by generally investing in new infrastructure. Unfortunately legal challenges from BT and Virgin Media (here) and EU competition concerns about investing state aid in urban areas, which the private sector should already be able to cover, ended that approach (here).

As a result the government was left to abandon the infrastructure part of its programme and replace it with the controversial Connection Vouchers Scheme. The first consultation on this approach closed last week (here) and the government has now begun a “market test” of the replacement solution in four cities, which will be used to help “inform the final scheme design“.

The Four Market Test Cities

• Belfast
• Cardiff
• Edinburgh
• Manchester/Salford

The market test phase will run from August 2013 to the end of September 2013 and, subject to the outcome of the market tests, the scheme will then be expanded to the other UBF cities around the United Kingdom.

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 (Total Allocation of £50m)

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

As previously reported any business seeking access to the funding should note that grants of between £250 and up to a maximum of £3,000 (excl. VAT) for individual premises will be available and prospective applicants must apply via their relevant city (a lot of registered suppliers will be available on the City’s website and from BDUK). Applicants are also required to arrange two quotes from different suppliers but they don’t have to pick the cheapest if they don’t want to.

The scheme itself claims to be technology neutral but generally speaking the service you select must broadly be able to deliver internet download speeds of 30Mbps+ (Megabits per second), which is below the original “ultra-fast” goal. Prospective businesses (i.e. those that can use the promotion) are currently defined as being any small or medium sized firm of up to 249 employees with a turnover no greater than around £42 million per year (€50m). But the money can only be used to fund connection costs and thus long-term service rental is still the businesses responsibility.

Some ISPs, such as Spectrum Internet in Wales, have already used this approach to offer a 1Gbps capable FTTP based connection to businesses in Cardiff for just £50 a month (here). This is similar to BT’s 330Mbps FTTP-on-Demand (FoD / FTTPoD) service, which asks property owners to pay for the expensive “last mile” installation cost and is currently still being rolled out (i.e. the Early Market Deployment phase).

It should be said that the recent consultation also proposed that eligible applicants could eventually include Small Office / Home Office (SOHO) workers and, in certain circumstances, commercial landlords for multi-SME premises. In fact it might even go a bit further than that and include residential properties but we suspect that this would cause the EU some concern.

Some further details published by Br0kenTeleph0n3 have also revealed that certain business types have been excluded from the grants, such as gambling shops, pay-day loan firms, pawn brokers and adult shops etc. Generally all of the seedy or under hand places that the government claims to hate but still allows to exist because they bring in vital revenue.

UPDATE 1st August 2013

The scheme now has a website:

http://www.connectionvouchers.co.uk/

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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