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Gov Hails £22m Top-up for UK Rural Gigabit Broadband Vouchers

Saturday, September 12th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 2,487
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The UK Government has today announced that their Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme has been given a £22.2m top-up boost by a total of 17 local councils in England, which has increased the size of their vouchers and meant that more homes and businesses can now potentially get a 1Gbps capable broadband ISP network installed.

The existing £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme is designed to help properties, particularly those in some of the most remote rural UK locations, to access significantly faster broadband. One part of that involves a voucher scheme, which normally offers up to £3,500 for small businesses or up to £1,500 for residents, to help them get an ultrafast or gigabit broadband connection installed (at present around a quarter of UK properties – 8 million premises – can access a gigabit service, albeit mostly in urban areas via commercial investment).

NOTE: The RGC voucher scheme is due to run until March 2021 or when it’s funding runs out, whichever comes first.

However, over the past few months the Welsh Government (here) and various councils across England (examples here and here), have announced that they intend to inject some of their own public funding in order to top-up the value of these vouchers. Bigger vouchers are good because they make faster broadband available to locations where it might otherwise still be too expensive to deploy.

For example, an additional investment of £1m in Dorset means that the maximum funding per voucher for homes has jumped to £2,500 (an extra £1,000), while the maximum funding per voucher for businesses will increase to £6,000 (an extra £2,500). Across England this means that 250,000 homes and businesses are now eligible for the boosted funding via 17 local councils.

Summary of Top-up Schemes in England

  Live since Top-up budget Max resident value Max biz value Threshold speed*
Buckinghamshire Sept 20 £0.5m £3,500 £7,000 100 mbps
Derbyshire Sept 20 £0.5m £3,000 £7,000 100 mbps
Dorset July 20 £1m £2,500 £6,000 100 mbps
East Sussex Sept 20 £0.5m £2,500 £4,500 100 mbps
Hampshire July 20 £1m £3,000 £3,500 100 mbps
Nottinghamshire Sept 20 £0.75m £3,000 £7,000 100 mbps
Oxfordshire Sept 20 £1m £7,000 £7,000 100 mbps
Shropshire Sept 20 £1m £4,000 £7,000 100 mbps
Warwickshire July 20 £1m £4,000 £4,000 100 mbps
West Sussex June 20 £2.65 £4,000 £4,000 100 mbps
Worcestershire Sept 20 £1m £3,000 £7,000 100 mbps
Borderlands  June 20 £4m £3,000 £7,000 30 mbps
Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Sept 20 £0.5m £3,000 £5,000 30 mbps
County Durham Sept 20 £0.5m £3,000 £7,000 30 mbps
East Riding of Yorkshire Sept 20 £0.5m £3,000 £7,000 30 mbps
Kent** Sept 19 £4.8m £7,000 £7,000 30 mbps
Staffordshire Sept 20 £1m £3,500 £5,500 30 mbps

* The speed which must not currently be available at an address in order to qualify for a voucher/top-up. For instance, the main GBVS is available to anyone who can’t access 100Mbps. In County Durham you would also qualify for the Durham top-up if you can’t access 30Mbps. In Shropshire everyone who qualifies for the main GBVS voucher will also qualify for the top-up because the speed threshold is the same.

** In Kent, new housing less than three years old is not eligible for increased values compared to GBVS. Kent’s top-up budget includes a £2m boost to the £2.8m top-up which was announced in September 2019.

The UK Government are also now in discussions with the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive, as well as other local councils in England, about the potential and approach for gigabit schemes there, although it’s not yet known what the outcome of those talks will be.

Matt Warman, UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said:

“This government is determined to connect every home and business to the fastest broadband speeds available from the Highlands to the Jurassic Coast.

But we can only do this with collaboration at a local and national level so I’m delighted English councils have committed to pump more money into our voucher scheme to help rural communities get gigabit speed broadband.

A quarter of all properties across the UK can now access these fast and reliable speeds, and we have earmarked a further £5 billion so rural towns and villages across the four nations can get the speeds they need to seize all the benefits of new technology.”

So far nearly 45,000 gigabit broadband vouchers, worth more than £90 million, have already been issued and there is more than £70 million worth of vouchers on offer immediately to “take companies and residents in rural towns and villages out of the digital slow lane” (apply here).

The current scheme is supplier-led, although the Government are also in the process of piloting a consumer-led approach across Cornwall, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Cumbria, Northumberland and the Borderlands (here), which could help to boost connectivity by making community demand much more visible to potential suppliers.

We should point out that the Government’s forthcoming commitment of £5bn under the Outside-In F20 programme also looks as if it will include additional voucher funding. This is focused on helping those in the final 20% of hardest to reach premises and forms part of a wider pledge to ensure that “gigabit-capable broadband” (via full fibre, DOCSIS, 5G or fixed wireless etc.) reaches every UK home by the end of 2025 (here).

We already have some idea how this new programme will work (here), but the Government recently appeared to water it down to only “go as far as we possibly can by 2025” (here).

Leave a Comment
20 Responses
  1. Avatar Solivagant says:

    My village has just had an FTTP scheme installed which been “paid for” by Rural Gigabit vouchers through a community sceme.
    Currently the village gets(at best) download speeds of c6mbps.

    But what a disappointment!

    The ISPs actually offering broadband through FTTP is extremely limited and they are offering very poor “deals”. The normal “good deal” suppliers are all noticeably missing – TalkTalk, Now etc. Many of the offers are for far higher speeds than most people need. We would be happy with 20-30mbps and have no need to pay for 100.

    The result? Many of us will just have to stick with our current copper suppliers and the cost of installing the scheme will have been wasted.

    1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      And I was going to type “It seems like a lot of money is being spent for a paltry 100Mbps speed!”

      The entire voucher scheme is nothing more than a PR exercise.

    2. Avatar joe says:

      You can get offers for ‘normal speeds’ The supply is not ‘extremely limited’ and the prices unless you sign up to anything are not substantially more than the low end providers (which frankly are not worth it anyway unless in extremis financially)

      Fwiw talk talk does do fttp.

    3. Avatar Fastman says:

      Solivagent interesting

      these premises who have claimed a voucher have to order a service within a specific time frame and if they dont there will be no voucher and the shortfall on that will have to be funded by the community (depending on what scheme they did and who they did it with)

      hope your name is not on the contract as being a voucher claimer

    4. Avatar MartinConf says:

      @Solivagant

      People who get fttp through a voucher scheme then complain about the price of broadband packages make me feel sick. There are millions of us out here who would be more than happy to pay the faster package prices to get better speeds than ADSL. If you don’t want to pay stick with ADSL speeds.

    5. Avatar A_Builder says:

      But for those stuck on awful ADSL connection 30Mb/s is a dream.

      There are numerous and I increasing numbers of providers offering quite cheap 40/10 – so I don’t know what that is about.

      At least it got upgraded now it is for market forces on the higher tiers and OFCOM in the social tiers to set the prices.

      Bear in mind that in France 2Gb/s symmetric is €50/month – I’m not sure how investable that price is mind. France is France.

    6. Avatar joe says:

      @A_Bulider

      “2Gb/s symmetric is €50/month – I’m not sure how investable that price is mind. France is France.”

      Doesn’t sound like a good return!

    7. Avatar Fastman says:

      solivagant

      unbelievable

      did you not check what providers were available and what any obligations there are for claiming the vouchers

      if you claim a vouchers you have to buy a service within a certain period thats one of the obligations

      if your community had a number of premises they were claiming vouchers on and those vouchers are not taken up the community legal entity is then liable for the shortfall (depending who you signed a contract with)

    8. Avatar NE555 says:

      > The ISPs actually offering broadband through FTTP is extremely limited and they are offering very poor “deals”

      Sky is currently offering Superfast (72M down /19M up) for £25 per month.

      BT has Fibre 1 (50M down / 10M up) for £28 per month.

      Talktalk “Future fibre” costs £35, but gives you 150M down.

      Given you’ve had the actual fibre install done for you free of charge, these all seem pretty reasonable to me. And if you don’t like it, and want to stay on ADSL or VDSL for the next few years until the copper network is withdrawn, you’re more than welcome to do so.

    9. Avatar Mike says:

      I have little sympathy for those on ADSL as most of them are too lazy to try 4G.

    10. Avatar MartinConf says:

      @Mike

      You said ‘I have little sympathy for those on ADSL as most of them are too lazy to try 4G’

      How do you know they are lazy and haven’t tried 4G?

    11. Avatar Fermanagh Rural says:

      @Mike: I have 2xADSL (4.5Mbit) and 1x4G via a router with external omni directional MIMO antenna, I also have 4 other 4G contracts on phones with around 100GB download limit on each, so I have the luxury of being able to test their performance in the 4G router in the same setup. I have tried all the 4g providers available from the 2 masts that serve my area. The 4G here is really bad from ALL providers. The 4G is always below 5Mbit with high latency compared to the ADSL. One minute I am getting 0.5Mbit, next it is 2, next 0.1Mbit, etc.
      I have also tested 3G, and it is consistently slow.
      If I then bring my 4G router with factory shipped antennas to the local town/village, the speeds are really quite good (20-30mbit), but then again if you live in those towns you already get around 60Mbit speeds and don’t need 4G!
      So, it just goes to show what little you know.

  2. Avatar Jon says:

    I’m sure Leicester is some forgotten county when it comes to fiber.

    Never anything regarding Leicestershire!

  3. Avatar Solivagant says:

    My comment above seems to generated some emotional hostility!!
    To cover some of the points
    a. @joe
    ISPs which offer FTTP in some places do not offer them everywhere. Unfortunately Talktalk are not (currently?) Offering FTTP connections in my area
    h.@Fastman
    “did you not check what providers were available and what any obligations there are for claiming the vouchers”
    Yes but the companies on the scheme did not provide their rates. One assumes that competition would have forced a proper market – but this does not (at the moment?) Seem to be the case. I would be VERY happy to accept the prices being offered by Talktalk and Now for “fibre broadband” on their websites but they are not available.
    The Community scheme is IMO a con and a sticking plaster to cover over the fact that Openreach have been given a near monopoly and have refused to install Fibre unless they are guaranteed a return.
    It is also highly opaque and asymetric. Thus Openreach have Run late in their insyallatipn But are allowed to extend. I know of no way in which the customets can also ask for an extension before they decide that there is an ISP offering a fair deal!

    1. Avatar joe says:

      As a general point – setting aside this community scheme – assuming connections are now live and installed ignore TTs checker and phone a human to see if its actually in your area.

      TTs fttp prices really are not that far apart from others.

      Other than extremis take the lowest fttp deal over adsl. Even BT are not bad if you haggle as a new customer. plenty of offers.

      “Openreach have been given a near monopoly and have refused to install Fibre unless they are guaranteed a return.”

      A Commercial company wants to make a profit. Its an outrage I tell you. Get the pitchforks!

    2. Avatar A_Builder says:

      The community scheme is not a very neat way of doing things.

      However, what is the alternative? If you can think of a better one then I am sure OFCOM would love to know about it.

      So at least something slightly imperfect is making a lot of progress and improving the lives and communities of a lot of people.

      If you were locked down on a WFH basis and all you had was a wet string grade ADSL then you would be very happy to be any kind of FTTP if that meant you could keep your job. Lets get real about this some companies are going to start to have to get rid of people who are WFH and and on such poor connections that they cannot WFH – for these poor souls FTTP cannot come fast enough. It is sadly economically impossible for companies to keep people sitting around doing nothing.

    3. Avatar MartinConf says:

      @Solivagant

      You said ‘The Community scheme is IMO a con’

      I have to disagree, you knew the t’s & c’s for the scheme but still signed up, so you have no one else other than yourself to blame if you’re now unhappy.

    4. Avatar Fastman says:

      solivant

      the T&C are very clear and the process is not quick giving you ample time to do your due diligence. DCMS will be checking whether those premises named on the contract as claiming a voucher have actually purchased one as that is a legal requirement of obtaining a vouchr — if they have not and do not thats a vouchers shortfall and the legal entity will be liable for that (thats also in the contract

  4. Avatar Nick L says:

    Pretty sure @Solivagant is trolling here.
    If not, then words fail me how stupid a comment they’ve made above.

  5. Avatar alfiescruff says:

    It is not unexpected that those who subsequently get a capital funded solution then complain about the revenue cost. No dount if there was a scheme to pay for the revenue inconvenience they would then complain about the cost of having to buy a new computer to surf the internet. Some are never satisfied.

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