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UK Government SUSPENDS Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 (8:52 am) - Score 2,383
business broadband connection voucher uk

The Government’s Connection Voucher scheme has been suspended to new applications as funding dries up. The vouchers gifted grants worth up to £3,000 to help smaller businesses in 50 UK cities get a superfast broadband (30Mbps+) service installed.

Originally the scheme, which was initially supported by around £100m from the wider Urban Broadband Fund (“Super-Connected Cities“), was supposed to end in March 2015. Instead it was given another £40m boost and extended to cover more cities until March 2016.

At the same time applications for the vouchers were made easier to approve (businesses only needed a single quote instead of several etc.), expanded to reach firms outside of the city centres and all of this was supported by a much more coherent advertising campaign. Suffice to say that uptake of the vouchers improved markedly.

Last month it was revealed that 40,941 businesses have now benefited from the vouchers (up sharply from around 15,000 in Q1 2015), which made it no surprise when ISPs last week began to inform us that only £33m of the £40m extension remained available. At around the same time we were also told that new applications for London and Birmingham were no longer being taken.

Yesterday the situation changed again, with ISPs informing us that the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has now suspended all new applications for vouchers across the entire scheme. Apparently nearly all of the £40m is now gone, although some funding has been left to cover applications that are still being processed.

DCMS Statement

The Connection Voucher Scheme is currently suspended. The funds available to the Scheme are close to being fully committed and we have suspended the scheme. Whilst the Scheme is suspended, cities will not accept applications.”

At this stage it is not clear whether the Government will extend the scheme again via a new funding boost or move on to other things. Despite its apparent success the scheme has been no stranger to criticism, with many feeling as if the money could have been better spent on bringing faster connectivity to rural areas. Others have also complained that it did little to improve the overall availability of super-fast broadband infrastructure.

It’s worth remembering that the voucher scheme only came about because of concerns over EU state aid rules (here). The related funding had originally been earmarked to help deploy new “ultrafast” (80-100Mbps+) broadband networks across a smaller number of major UK cities, but fears of network overbuilding triggered legal challenges by BT and Virgin Media (here) and that combined with the EU concerns to result in a watered down voucher scheme (“Plan B” as it was called).

Otherwise London, which is the biggest city in the scheme and has been involved since the start, has so far shown the strongest uptake (11,664 vouchers consumed) and they’re followed by the other major population centres of Manchester (4,163), Leeds + Bradford (4,016) and Birmingham (2,494).

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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16 Responses
  1. Avatar Craski

    I applied for one a week ago and was told yesterday that all applications have been suspended, no money left.

    • I’d complain because strictly speaking the scheme will not fulfil vouchers for orders placed after the date of this suspension (12th Oct 2015), as stated by the terms. But orders placed before that should still be given a chance.

    • Avatar JamesM

      I placed one on Monday at 9.25am and my voucher was accepted. So I will let you know!

    • Avatar Craski

      @Mark
      I do intend to complain. I received formal letter of rejection today but the reason for rejection doesnt match what I was told on phone. I was told voucher scheme had been suspended but letter says it was rejected because my quotation was not from a DCMS registered supplier. Its all a bit of a farce as pretty much all of their approved/registered suppliers simply resell BT Infinity products and the few that dont are not in my area. It took me months to find a supplier able to offer me a fixed wireless connection that met the required spec!

    • Avatar The Sheep Pimp

      My understanding is each local authority had a pot of money to allocate so it could be the case your council has approved all the money.

  2. Avatar JamesM

    Glad I got mine then. I just hope they honour the ones they have given out.

    • Avatar Craski

      My local council said vouchers that had been issued would be honored but that they would not be processing any more applications as all of the available funds had been “allocated”.

    • Avatar JamesM

      I’ll let you know what happens. I placed my order 9:25 on the 12th

  3. Avatar SgtAMYNTAS

    What i find worrying now is 🙁 BT Said they would give me a free Install when i signed the contract. would this still be true? do they foot the Bill for FTTPoD?

    • Avatar JamesM

      I don’t think so – no offence but why would they charge me over 2.5K and give it to you for free? it’s not a £25 FTTC install. If you have a voucher then I that’s free but they still get paid. You have them recorded on a call so hold them to it.

    • Avatar SgtAMYNTAS

      I just contacted them there going to give me a date tomorrow or the next day for when they come out to survey and install and if i don’t like it they said i can cancel? but i will hold them too it. i can accept ECC but if they said install is free he did say he applied for a businesses scheme but was aware that the BDUK program had ended last Friday

    • Avatar sheep pimp

      You may get free install if you agreeing to a certain contract term.most companies offer free install if 3 year contract for leased lines but you choose only 1 or 2 you will be charged the full install.

  4. Avatar Tom

    Humm… I wonder what this means for an order that one of my customers currently has progressing. (In Mayfair, London – no FTTC!).

    • Avatar fastman

      tom is that on an aneabled cab or not – as yo cannot do a FOD service on an unenabled cab for FTTC

    • Avatar JamesM

      It also covers leased line installs (well £3000 towards it) so you don’t need to be on an FTTC cab to get a voucher.

  5. Avatar Carl Farrington

    Two of my customers placed orders for leased lines, with £3k installs costs (each), which BT Local Business assured me would not have to be paid by the customer. The orders were placed six months ago, and went live a couple of weeks ago. First customer got their bill today (with a 3,000 connection charge) and the BT chap went to take me to the connection vouchers website, and was surprised to hear that the scheme is closed. This is not good. I’m waiting to hear back from the BT Local Business M.D.

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