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Superfast Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme Extended to 2016

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 (10:49 am) - Score 1,892

The Government’s Connection Voucher scheme, which offers grants worth up to £3,000 in order to help small and medium sized businesses around any of 22 cities across the United Kingdom to gain access to a superfast broadband (30Mbps+) service, has been extended by a full year to March 2016. Additional funding and expanded coverage is also confirmed.

At present the voucher scheme forms a significant part (roughly £100m) of the wider “Super-Connected Cities” initiative, which itself stems from the £150m Urban Broadband Fund (UBF). But uptake remains lower than expected (here) and so far more than 5,000 vouchers have been delivered (mid-November 2014), although around 10,000 are expected to have been delivered by March 2015 when the scheme was originally supposed to end.

Recently the Government has moved to enhance their advertising of the vouchers and some city councils have also extended the grants to areas that exist well outside of their city boundaries, although it’s still too early to judge how effective those measures have been. Never the less the Government’s latest National Infrastructure Plan 2014 Update notes that the voucher scheme is to be extended, with another £40m being added to the pot.

NIF 2014 Update – Voucher Scheme

Broadband connection vouchers – the government will provide up to £40 million to extend the SME connection voucher scheme to March 2016 and to more cities; vouchers will be available on a first come, first served basis.

It’s worth remembering that the demand-led voucher scheme was hastily setup in 2013 after fears of network overbuilding triggered legal challenges by BT and Virgin Media (here), with Europe also expressing competition concerns around the issue of putting state aid into urban areas, where the private sector should have less trouble making a case for investment (here). Many argue that the money might have been better spent on helping to upgrade rural areas.

At the time of writing the Government has not announced which new cities will be added to the current list, although the document states that the “Vouchers will be available in the new cities from April 2015.”

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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