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Government Boosts Gigabit Broadband Vouchers to £5500 in Wales UPDATE

Friday, March 22nd, 2019 (12:05 pm) - Score 2,463

The UK and Welsh Governments have today jointly announced that the £67m Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS), which normally offers up to £2,500 to help businesses and surrounding homes gain access to a 1Gbps capable broadband ISP connection (ideally “full fibreFTTP), is to be boosted up to £5,500 in Wales.

The change is said to have been made in order to help reflect the “higher costs of deploying fibre infrastructure in Wales, as a result of the country’s topography and the location of premises.” Under the new arrangements, the Welsh Government will thus provide an additional £3,000 for businesses up to a certain size and an additional £300 per residential property.

Overall this means that for group projects in Wales up to £5,500 is available per business, compared with £2,500 elsewhere in the UK. Meanwhile up to £800 will now be available per residential property in Wales, compared with £500 elsewhere.

The catch is that the revised GBVS scheme for Wales will replace the old Ultrafast Connectivity Vouchers (UCV), which some may recall provided assistance (worth up to £10,000) toward the capital costs of helping businesses in Wales to install an “ultrafast” service offering speeds of 100Mbps+ (30Mbps upload). Some might consider that a downgrade on the level of available funding (apparently UCV provided an average of £4,300 per scheme).

Lee Waters, Welsh Deputy Minister for Economy, said:

“Although the vast majority of premises in Wales can now access superfast broadband, we are working hard on assisting the remaining five per cent that cannot access it and where commercial companies have no plans to reach. There is no one size fits all solution to reach the final premises, and the Gigabit Broadband Voucher scheme is an important part of a suite of measures to achieve this.

This voucher scheme can provide a vital funding source for group connectivity projects, and could be of great benefit to communities currently without access. I’m pleased we’ve been able to work with the UK Government to provide an enhanced scheme for Wales, taking into account the particular challenges we face here with geography and the location of premises.”

Margot James, UK Minister for Digital, said:

“This exclusive scheme for Welsh businesses and communities is a vital part of our modern Industrial Strategy and build a Britain that is fit for the future. Working with the Welsh Government, together we can make sure that everyone in Wales has the connectivity they need for the digital age.”

We should point out that none of this impacts the existing Access Broadband Cymru (ABC) scheme, which will continue to offer vouchers to homes in areas that aren’t currently planned to benefit from the Superfast Cymru project with Openreach (BT) and which thus don’t have access to a “superfast connection” speed of 30Mbps+ (e.g. £400 for 10Mbps+ or £800 for 30Mbps+).

By comparison GBVS is more business orientated and the only way for residents to benefit is as part of a local community group, which must include small businesses (i.e. up to 10 homes can participate for every one SME).

We have queried how much total funding the WG has allocated to this and whether it will be coming from the as yet unallocated investment that was previously committed to the Phase Two broadband roll-out contract with BT (expect an update soon), which is expected to provide 26,000 premises with access to “fast reliable broadband” (mostly FTTP) by March 2021 at a public cost of £22.5m (here).

NOTE: The vouchers can only cover one-off installation and set-up costs, while the connection itself must be 1Gbps capable (but you can take a 100Mbps+ minimum service speed package).

Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS)

UPDATE 12:26pm

One local ISP to Wales, Spectrum Internet, is happy with the change.

Giles Phelps, MD of Spectrum Internet, said:

“This is great news for Businesses and residents in Wales. The increased voucher value will be of particular benefit to the more rural areas where increased intervention is needed. Spectrum is currently investing significantly in full-fibre infrastructure passing thousands of properties in South Wales.

Hundreds of businesses already have access to our fibre services which are widely available in Cardiff and Bristol but a large number of properties in South East Wales are expected to start going live in the Summer. With this increased voucher top-up we expect to increase our roll-out significantly.

The Gigabit Voucher scheme, in our experience, has proved itself accessible for businesses struggling with poor Internet. In Wales, there are a number of reasons why it has been impossible for us to provide connections where only £2,500 is available. I know of a number of projects we are planning that will benefit from the £5,500.”

UPDATE 23rd March 2019

The WG has responded to our query about the funding level and source of funding.

A Welsh Government Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“The funding for the enhanced Gigabit Voucher scheme is part of an overall broadband vouchers budget which totals £1.5m for the next financial year. We have always said we have a suite of measures to bring faster broadband to the remaining properties as there is not one single solution. Voucher schemes form an integral part of those measures.

The agreement with Opeanreach is a separate part of that suite of measures, with funding allocated specifically for that.”

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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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