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BDUK Accepting Councils to Gigabit Voucher Top-Up Scheme Again

Friday, October 8th, 2021 (9:52 am) - Score 816
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After a delay that was caused by a data backlog regarding previous voucher schemes, the Government’s (DCMS) Building Digital UK team have confirmed that they are now actively onboarding local councils that are interested in setting up a top-up boost for their £210m rural gigabit broadband voucher scheme.

At this point it’s probably fair to say that the gigabit voucher scheme has had a rocky 2021, which partly stems from difficulties experienced during the transition phase that occurred after the end of the prior £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) scheme in March 2021 and the start of the new £210m follow-on scheme (the latter forms part of the wider £5bn Project Gigabit programme).

NOTE: Vouchers normally provide up to £3,500 for businesses, or £1,500 for homes, to help them get a gigabit-capable connection installed (i.e. for rural areas where current speeds are sub-100Mbps and a gigabit upgrade isn’t expected in the near future).

One aspect that suffered was the top-up scheme, which is where local authorities (councils, devolved governments etc.) put in some of their own public funding to help boost the value of vouchers. At the start of August 2021 it was revealed that many UK LAs had pumped an extra £26m into the voucher scheme (here), often doubling the value of local vouchers – bigger vouchers make it possible to reach increasingly remote rural areas.

At the time, we noted that many councils were missing from the list, including some that had previously informed us they wanted to join, but were struggling to make much progress. The situation has made it difficult for some gigabit voucher projects to proceed, which has left them stuck in limbo.

Sources close to the issue recently enabled ISPreview.co.uk to confirm that this was caused by a data backlog from the previous voucher scheme, which meant that BDUK were not in a position to set up new top-up voucher schemes (beyond those they’d just announced).

However, BDUK informs us that they’ve made significant progress since August and have worked through the backlog, which means they’re now actively onboarding local councils that are interested in setting up new top-up arrangements. So far, all local authorities and devolved administrations with existing top-up schemes who indicated that they wished to continue, and were ready to move to the new scheme, have now been migrated.

The priority was to migrate existing top-up arrangements, but talks are understood to be ongoing to onboard new local authorities who did not have existing top-up schemes, particularly those that have expressed an interest in joining (e.g. Cheshire). We understand that BDUK are now aiming to onboard those later this year.

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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.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Dave says:

    It’s interesting that you mention Cheshire in that Article. Many were under the impression that Cheshire Councils were just not interested.

    I’m keen to see if your Cheshire reference only applies to Cheshire East Council and not Cheshire West.

    1. Peter S says:

      It is my understanding that all the local authorities in Cheshire ( Connecting Cheshire sub region ) have been waiting to join the scheme for over 6 months, but haven’t been able to due to issues at BDUK. There still seems to be some uncertainty whether the issues really have been sorted yet.

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