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UK Rural Broadband Satellite Subsidy Scheme Gets Off to a Slow Start

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 (5:07 pm) - Score 4,989

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.

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar gerarda says:

    The low take up is not really surprising
    a) there has been virtually no publicity
    b) even if you know about it, it is almost impossible to work out what you get for the voucher and what its going to cost
    c) having worked out that what you are going to get is a capped 10Gig per month service with an upload speed little above 100Kbps the ongoing cost looks horrendous

  2. Avatar Andrew says:

    Satellite is pants. Utter pants.
    Windows update bloody hates it. Takes hours even on a 25Mbps link.
    Ever tried using EE’s WiFi calling over it? It will connect, surprisingly, but with a 1 second delay it’s appalling.
    300,000??? It should only be for the last 3000!!!!
    Come on, stop the pointless trains and nuclear power stations that we won’t even need in 20 years and get some reels of fibre in. FTTP for all. The only solution to save the country!

    1. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove says:

      “Pants!”. I’ve not heard anyone call something pants since my kids (now well into their thirties) left home years ago. Thanks, Andrew. You really made me laugh. And you’re right. It really is PANTS!

  3. Avatar Stuart Jordan says:

    Had satellite broadband for a year. Absolutely useless. Use more than a tiny amount of bandwidth and they put you on the “naughty step” where the speed is throttled to such an extent it becomes unusable. It is not fit for purpose and our provider let us get out of the contract as they conceded it has been oversold.

  4. Avatar Kevin Forbes says:

    I first heard about the satellite voucher scheme through Ed Vaizey talking about it on the Sunday Politics show. I don’t live in a remote location but still my broadband connection is appalling thanks to BT Openreach apathy, so I easily qualified for the voucher. On doing further research I found that even after the subsidised installation the service would be expensive, the bandwidth severely restricted and the service would be most likely as unreliable and as poor as BT Openreach. But then I found that the voucher was completely worthless because the companies that were provided by BDUK as approved installer refuse to honour and accept the voucher! One company – Bentley Walker emailed to say

    “The voucher code that you have been issued has been backed by the BT scheme and is only available on the Avanti service. Although we sell the Avanti product directly from the supplier and they are more than happy with our installation procedure BT have raised concerns which have left us and Avanti confused. Due to BT using a slightly older system for the installation procedure it will require the installer having attended an Avanti training course with this particular system, we have contacted Avanti again and they are going to supply us a list of installers around the country who have attended this course so that we can contact them and try and arrange installations, but to date we are still to receive this list.”

  5. Avatar Andrew Parry says:

    I am one of the many people who are just too far from a fibre enabled BT cabinet (>2km) to ever be able to get a fast broadband service. I was delighted to eceive in the post a flyer from Better Broadband for Oxfordshire discuss the alternatives for households such as mine blighted by poor broadband speeds. As an alternative to satellite, with its latency issues, was a list of four Wireless Internet Servive Providers (WISPs) who were meant to be offering their service in Oxfordshire. On researching the options it soon became apparent that three of them were not offering the service in the county or at all and that one only in a small part of northern Oxfordshire. On pointing this out to Better Broadband I was directed to the MD of another WISP only to discover that they too were not active in the majority of Oxfordshire and had no idea of the scheme. Perhaps instead of conducting a misleading and overly optimistic mail shot promoting alternatives to fibre broadband, the authorities would be better off spending the money on the actual service? Spin is never a substitute for service.

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