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UK Government Preps New Rural Business Broadband Voucher Scheme

Monday, February 27th, 2017 (11:51 am) - Score 1,728
business broadband connection voucher uk

Several Government MPs have hinted that the forthcoming 2017 Budget announcement on the 8th March will see a rural-focused reincarnation of the Connection Voucher scheme, which gifted grants of up to £3,000 to help smaller UK businesses get a superfast broadband (30Mbps+) service installed.

The original scheme, which helped roughly 55,000 SMEs (small and medium sized businesses) around 50 cities across the United Kingdom, came to an end in 2015 after funding dried-up (here). Since then a number of local authorities have launched their own voucher programmes (e.g. here and here) and the central Government has been consulting upon the idea of a new scheme since December 2016 (here).

Prior to Christmas the talk was all about the new scheme being used to help support alternative network (AltNet) ISPs by offering extra funding to help them connect rural homes. However the latest report from The Telegraph appears to indicate that the focus has shifted back to rural businesses, although it’s entirely possible that the Government might do new vouchers for both homes and businesses.

MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, Chair of the a Parliamentary Broadband Group, said:

“Every party in the UK has been saying this needs to be rolled out as fast as possible. It is hugely important and absolutely vital. The percentage of people who now work at home in rural areas is going up massively. Small businesses nowadays have to have high-speed broadband. You can’t run a business without it.”

Apparently a final decision on the reincarnated voucher scheme is expected to take place within the next few days, although some MPs appear to be suggesting that it’s already a done deal. The Government are also considering how they might be better able to bring faster connectivity to public buildings in rural areas, which could then share that capacity out with local ISPs.

However we’d hope that the new scheme would be more flexible, allowing vouchers to be easily aggregated by multiple businesses and ideally offering extra funding because it generally costs more to reach rural businesses than those in urban areas. Most urban businesses benefit from being closer to major infrastructure, which tends to be absent in rural areas.

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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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8 Responses
  1. Avatar NGA for all

    Tricky this! Do you write it around an ultra-fast fibre access connection and begin to force wireless operators to use PIA and demand BT used FoD to deliver its FTTP service, or accept wireless as the final answer.

    Either way building volume will need organised customers and long waiting times.

  2. Leased line costs have been coming down for the past several years. However, this is of no use if you are still in a rural area where excess charges are through the roof! We deal with so many businesses that still cannot get a connection. The voucher scheme is a great idea and its take up was good for those areas involved, however I think moving forward it should be blanked coverage as its still unfair for the majority to miss out.

    • Avatar MikeW

      If I understand Openreach pricing for EAD correctly, the simplest connections have an installation fee of around £2000, but that includes a fee that is put into a pot to help fund some of the ECC charges. Short lines are subsidising long lines.

      That fee is £660, but it helps offset ECCs of up to £2,800.

      So … what kind of distance can you get before the ECCs start to go above the “covered” £2,800 level? ie – when the installation cost payable actually starts to increase above the basic £2,000ish level?

      And … If the voucher ends up being for £3,000, then it would cover an additional £1,000 of ECCs. How much further will this £1,000 get you?

    • Avatar Patrick Cosgrove

      To MikeW. I suppose the more you aggregate lines the further it will get you.

    • Avatar Patrick Cosgrove

      Sorry. I mean aggregate vouchers.

    • Avatar MikeW

      I don’t know how well EAD charges will aggregate to make leased lines feasible. Aggregating vouchers might prove to be a better fit with the community fibre schemes.

  3. Avatar Cecil Ward

    How is this exactly supposed to get me FTTP, being on a 7.3 km long EO line?

    • Avatar NGA for all

      @Cecil – how many of you are there? 7.3km takes some doing, but take at look at BARN or Fell end Broadband, then, it shows folk are managing it.
      Search here for Calverton in Staffs and you have a 3km example being solved for 18 customers. There is money in various pots to do a lot more and this is another but industry resource is an issue.

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