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UK Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme Issues Over 10,000 Vouchers

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 (12:01 am) - Score 409
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The UK Government’s Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme, which offers grants worth up to £400 to help homes and business that are unable to access a broadband speed of at least 2Mbps, has so far issued over 10,000 voucher codes and consumed £3.1m of its budget. But it’s also about to end.

The scheme itself was first revealed at the end of 2015 (here) and at the time it aimed to provide help for an estimated 300,000 premises (mostly rural areas), specifically those that couldn’t currently receive a minimum download speed of 2Mbps and which might not benefit from the £1.6bn+ Broadband Delivery UK rollout of 24Mbps+ capable “superfast broadband” services (expected to reach 98% UK coverage by around 2020).

Initially the BBSS, which stemmed from the Government’s old non-binding “2Mbps for allUniversal Service Commitment (USC) that never quite achieved its ambition, only focused on providing the grants to Satellite based broadband providers. However, it was soon extended to Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) ISPs and we’ve also seen some fixed line providers making use of it too (e.g. BT’s Community Fibre Partnerships).

People who applied for the grant received a subsidy code (voucher) that could cover most or all of the cost of the installation and commissioning of a basic broadband service, including any necessary equipment (but not the monthly service subscription). The Government has informed ISPreview.co.uk that over 10,000 codes have so far been allocated.

In terms of funding, the original USC actually had a budget of around £60 million, although we understand that most of this was later fed back into the wider “superfast broadband” rollout programme and as a result the BBSS saw its total allocation shrink to just £5 million. So far £3.1 million of that has been allocated to the voucher codes.

In the grander scheme of things the BBSS has certainly helped a lot of people to access faster connectivity, although its proportional impact on the underlying problem remains fairly small and many people may not have been aware of its existence. The scheme will close to new applications at the end of December 2017, although the Government are considering the possibility of an extension (we’re told a decision is due “shortly“).

A DCMS Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“To date the Better Broadband has provided immediate help to more than 10,000 homes and businesses, many in remote areas around the UK, who were struggling with the slowest broadband speeds. This is on top of the 4.5 million homes that the Government rollout of superfast broadband has already reached. A decision on the future of the Better Broadband scheme will be made shortly.”

The Government are separately working to introduce a new legally-binding 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO), which could be enforced from 2020. On the surface this would appear to conflict with the prospect of a BBSS extension, although the Broadband Deliver UK programme team informs us that it would instead continue to provide immediate help to those who are sub 2Mbps, at least until the USO rollout reaches them.

We might learn more when the Government gives their first 2017 Autumn Budget speech next week. In the meantime those who still want to apply for a code can do so for a little longer at the link below.

Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme
https://basicbroadbandchecker.culture.gov.uk

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Mark Jackson

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.

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5 Responses
  1. Cecil Ward

    So in fact, having read the FAQ, yet it is stated nowhere in this rather thin article, this is the government pushing satellite onto us, rather than upgrading links to users. And no help with the horrendous per-MB charges either. I wonder who in the satellite lobby gave government a bung to make this happen? No mention of simply using ADSL IP-bonding, which I do, times n. And it works superbly, with true multi-speed performance in both directions even with only one single TCP connection, and it is also completely IP-transparent, meaning that I do not expose _multiple_ unwanted link endpoint IP addresses at either end, not on my LAN or to the wider internet.

    • I think you missed the third paragraph where I said that the BBSS covered Satellite (initially this was all it included), wireless and some fixed line providers. Quite a lot of fixed wireless ISPs are listed as suppliers. But like most voucher schemes it’s been very limited in terms of wider impact, which is another point also made above.

    • MikeW

      @Cecil

      Remember that this scheme was the ultimate mop-up of the promise to get 2Mbps basic, functional, broadband to everyone by the end of 2015. It started up when individual counties ran out of cost-effective fixed-line upgrades.

      Yes, both satellite and wireless tend to come with low usage limitations (and high overage charges), but we shouldn’t mistake it as being a project to deliver high-speed, high-volume multimedia capabilities. Not yet – those projects are still going on.

      Its a good point that bonding of fixed-line services shouldn’t be forgotten.

  2. Re Mike W
    “Yes, both satellite and wireless tend to come with low usage limitations (and high overage charges), but we shouldn’t mistake it as being a project to deliver high-speed, high-volume multimedia capabilities. Not yet – those projects are still going on.”

    Mike, I think you are a bit out of date with your comments regarding fixed wireless. I am from Boundless Networks and we do not impose any data caps, and on our new networks are offering speeds of 100Mb/s. All our networks are 30Mb/s capable.

  3. Ultrafast Dream

    The subsidy was a great idea, unfortunately I feel the 2Mbps cap to receive it was far too low.

    Many Rural areas may have slightly higher speeds than the 2Mbps cap and still have to use an ADSL product as Fibre isn’t an option, therefore falling far, far short of receiving anywhere near Superfast speeds. Moving to Wi-Max (or Wireless alternatives), Satellite or Mobile could be prohibitively expensive (if available), will come with Data caps, or may offer an unlimited service for a Sky high cost.

    This will result in likes of BT having to use bully boy tactics or a ‘twist of the truth’ when they want to close off the older ADSL products for the greater good. This will be apparent particularly in areas where their cabinet is Fibre enabled but neither fibre or anything else is available to reach them.

    Those that are being left completely out in the cold must be wondering where their tax contributions towards the Better Broadband Scheme funding is going, oh yes, elsewhere!!

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