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Questions for Low Uptake of UK Business Broadband Connection Vouchers

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 (9:35 am) - Score 591

The Government’s Connection Vouchers scheme, which is part of the £150m “Super-Connected Cities” initiative to help SME businesses install superfast broadband (30Mbps+), has been criticised for low uptake in Oxford, Portsmouth and Brighton. Curiously one of the reasons given is that businesses don’t need the speeds it offers.

The voucher scheme offers grants worth between £200 and £3,000 +vat to individual businesses (i.e. any SME of up to 249 employees with a turnover no greater than £40 million per annum) across 22 of the UK’s cities, which is designed to help the firms get connected to a superfast Internet connection.

So far the Government states that hundreds of applications have been submitted across the United Kingdom, which appears to be supported by the results from last years limited trial (here) where a total of 690 applications were submitted.

However the same does not hold true for every area and a report on the BBC today notes that just 2 applications have been submitted by businesses in Oxford and 4 in Brighton, both of which have admittedly only been running the scheme for around a month. Meanwhile Portsmouth’s scheme, which has been online since the end of last year, received just 4 applications.

Bob Bradley, Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce, said:

There aren’t that many companies that are big enough to need this sort of speed – it’s somewhat confused and too late really.”

Mr Bradley’s comment, which is somewhat lacking in clarification (30Mbps+ isn’t exactly anything special these days), would appear to be at odds with the various opinions and surveys distributed by organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses and Institute of Directors (example); both of which frequently call for better connectivity.

On the other hand many urban areas already have access to good connections, which is one of the reasons why businesses move into such locations in the first place, and this might in turn limit the uptake. However experiences do vary and in some areas there is a clear lack of better connectivity.

At the same time it’s also conceivable that the voucher scheme hasn’t received enough local promotion or that businesses are forgetting they don’t have to pick a 1Gbps line and can instead take a slower / cheaper option if required, which is one of the reasons why the minimum grant level was recently reduced to £200 (here).

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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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