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Dorset UK Inject £1m Boost into Gigabit Broadband Vouchers

Thursday, July 30th, 2020 (10:07 am) - Score 569
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The Dorset County Council (DCC) has this week become the latest in a string of local authorities to invest £1m into a “top up” scheme alongside the UK Government’s £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme, which helps properties in the most remote rural locations to access ultrafast broadband.

At present if you live in a rural area, where only sub-100Mbps speeds are available, then the RGC can provide vouchers – worth up to £3,500 for small businesses or up to £1,500 for residents – to help them get an ultrafast or “gigabit-capable” broadband ISP connection installed.

The additional investment of £1 million in Dorset means that the maximum funding per voucher for homes will now jump to £2,500 (an extra £1,000), while the maximum funding per voucher for businesses will increase to £6,000 (an extra £2,500). The bigger the value of these vouchers, the more viable they are for helping to connect the remotest communities.

The DCC predicts that this could help an additional 1,000 premises to access some of the the fastest broadband connectivity services. The scheme itself is managed by the Building Digital UK team within DCMS.

Peter Wharf, Deputy Leader of Dorset Council, said:

“Hundreds of businesses and homes have already got a gigabit-capable connection through this and previous schemes but for some, the voucher amount was not enough to pay for the installation. This top-up funding means many more schemes can be funded, providing this future-proofed connectivity to around 1,000 more homes in the most rural locations which are otherwise unlikely to get it for many years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important it is to have access to reliable, fast broadband. Being digitally connected is key to staying in touch with loved ones, working from home and enabling our local businesses and economy to thrive. I am delighted that Dorset Council can provide this much needed financial boost to help bring high-speed broadband to areas that are very remote and most in need.

If you are interested in a voucher then discuss this with your residential and business neighbours. You have to apply as a group and the schemes work best when you have communities pulling together. The good news is that all you need to do is register your interest now with your chosen supplier and they will check all the details and if you are eligible, they will start the process to get you connected.”

One ISP likely to benefit from this is Wessex Internet, which is building a rural FTTP network across parts of Dorset, South Wiltshire, South Somerset and Hampshire and has laid more than 1,500km of fibre across the region. The company has already helped with more than 1,700 claims for gigabit connectivity vouchers.

Hector Gibson Fleming, MD of Local ISP Wessex Internet, said:

“We’re delighted that Dorset Council have announced this generous £1million top-up to the national voucher scheme, which will now make a gigabit connection viable for hundreds more homes and businesses in the most rural areas of the county. Our friendly local team, based in the heart of Dorset, is passionate about delivering full-fibre connections to these areas that are overlooked by other network providers.

Unfortunately the cost of reaching the most remote communities and properties can often be significantly more than the amount available under central government funding, so the council’s top-up scheme is going to be crucial in helping those overlooked in Dorset’s most rural communities.”

We should point out that the RGC scheme is due to close by the end of March 2021, although the Government’s proposed £5bn investment into gigabit-capable broadband delivery (here) indicates that a follow-on voucher scheme with more funding may well be planned to replace the RGC. The final details are expected later this year.

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar Andy says:

    It seems that towns on the edges of large conurbation or towns are forgotten. An example that is local to me is Ferndown which is not in Bournemouth/Poole but is just outside. Therefore it gets forgotten by Virgin, CityFibre and Wessex Internet. Who knows when Openreach might lay their fibre. Go a couple of miles down the road and you have areas that are covered by 3 different gigabit capable providers.

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