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Government Quietly Scrap Main UK Gigabit Broadband Voucher Site UPDATE

Wednesday, Feb 28th, 2024 (10:03 am) - Score 4,640
broadband vouchers ultrafast gigabit uk full fibre

The Government’s Building Digital UK (BDUK) agency appears to have scrapped the relatively user-friendly website for their Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS), which instead redirects interested consumers and businesses to a somewhat less user-friendly GOV.UK information page that lacks even a simple availability checker.

Just to recap. The GBVS generally offers grants worth up to £4,500 for rural homes and businesses to help them get a gigabit-capable broadband (1Gbps) ISP service installed, which is available to areas with speeds of “less than 100Mbps” – assuming there are also no near-term plans for a gigabit deployment in the same area (either via private investment or state-aid). Some Local Authorities (LA) have also provided top-up funding to boost the voucher values, enabling them to reach some increasingly remote areas.

NOTE: The GBVS is currently being supported by an investment of £210m via the wider £5bn Project Gigabit programme.

However, the GBVS has admittedly faced a rocky few years, not least due to the clash with Project Gigabit’s wider gigabit subsidy programme (i.e. awarding wider state-aid build contracts to network operators) and various internal process changes. Both schemes focus on the same sort of rural areas (final 20% of poorly served premises), which can make for a difficult bit of juggling to avoid duplicating public investment. But the subsidy contracts / procurements usually seem to take precedence.

According to our sources, BDUK informed network operators a couple of weeks ago that they had launched a new website for the GBVS. But the problem is that the new site is less of a dedicated front-end for the voucher programme and more of a wordy information page on the general GOV.UK site.

Gone is the clean and simple front-end, as well as any semblance of an availability checker to help simplify the process. Instead, visitors will now need to wade through several pages’ worth of text (user-friendly, it is not), before being able to figure out how to even apply (you have to approach a registered supplier for your region).

The only positive is that BDUK now includes a semi-useful little map, which perhaps ironically helps to highlight the current caveats of the GBVS scheme by visualising which parts of the UK are actually open for new voucher projects. The answer is, not many – it’s been suspended in most areas to avoid clashing with the aforementioned Project Gigabit procurements.

GBVS Availability Map

Project-Gigabit-Voucher-Availability-Map

Suffice to say, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the government doesn’t really seem to care much about the voucher scheme right now. If they did, then we’d like to think they’d be putting a lot more effort into making it easier to use, rather than going in the opposite direction.

The change also makes it difficult for people, as well as ourselves, to check whether specific locations are covered by a pre-existing deployment plan. We’ve asked BDUK/DSIT for a comment.

UPDATE 29th Feb 2024 @ 7:24am

We’ve had a response from the government.

A DSIT spokesperson said:

“In response to feedback from suppliers, the voucher scheme is now administered through a new, improved platform which is more efficient and offers a better user experience, with clear and up to date information about the scheme on gov.uk.

Users can still visit the webpage to find out if they are eligible under the scheme and whether their area is open for new applications. Those eligible can then contact suppliers delivering voucher projects in their area.”

The department also noted that there are relatively few areas open for new voucher applications, and that previous research had showed searches using the old eligibility checker would be low. But that last point might be more about the fact that awareness of the gigabit voucher scheme among the relevant population can also be low, and it doesn’t change the fact that the old experience was better than the new one.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
21 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Ardacnet says:

    With the GBVS voucher scheme effectively paused across the country, is this a sign that the vouchers are being scrapped? In Scotland, GBVS vouchers have been suspended since October 2023, pending the procurement process being developed in Scotland. With the statements issues that there will be 5 Type A lots, and one Type B lot in Scotland, with “the rest of the country being included in a Type C,” then UK Gov are insinuating there is no need for GBVS anymore. Really disappointing news considering the significant amount of premises we know will never be connected to gigabit connections because of the incredibly high costs of full-fibre deployment, and no real information coming from the ‘Very Hard to Reach’ policy development.

  2. Avatar photo John says:

    BDUK is a waste of taxpayer money

    1. Avatar photo Josh Welby says:

      I agree with you

    2. Avatar photo GaryH says:

      So are many government funded projects if you arent the one to benefit, or do you have some information as to why this one is a waste specifically.

  3. Avatar photo Peter Delaney says:

    I noticed this issue a few days ago when a link that referred to the old page was updated in one of the Project Gigabit docs.

    And so, pretty much the only user friendly BDUK website, one that actually gave you instant feedback rather than wading through multiple documents, bites the dust.

    The regional procurements sweep all before them….

    A typical regional procurement;

    Big complex contract that takes years to draw up, procure and deliver.

    Public visibility of what’s going on is limited. BDUK will have long out of date postcode
    lists available and the fuzzy-blobby maps based on them.

    People will not be able to see if their property is included in the contract.

    An up-to-date coverage list down to the property level will exist but only BDUK and the
    contract winner will see this.

    Once a contract is signed, the notification of build progress will be be left entirely in
    the hands of the contract winner. People will typically only know service is arriving
    immediately prior to a build by letters through the door, a news item on a website or a
    public meeting.

    In any case, building will not even start for several months while survey work is
    completed.

    Other than this, people will have no idea if service will arrive next month or several
    years hence.

    There will generally be no overall build timescale declared or any kind of publicly
    available build schedule.

    Other public subsidy is frozen during a contract. So, waiting is the only option unless a
    commercial build turns up or the contract winner doesn’t build to you. If that happens
    it’s back to square one with vouchers (or maybe not now, who knows ?)

    There will be no publicly available list of which connections have been subsidised under
    the contract.

    All the while, rapid commercial building is taking place which will call into question why
    some areas require subsidy at all.

    Is public money being spent wisely here ?

    Are the people meant to benefit being best served ?

    On the information available, who can tell ?

  4. Avatar photo NoFibreHere says:

    ”Suffice to say, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the government doesn’t really seem to care much about the voucher scheme right now.”

    I think it would be safe to say that the current government doesn’t care much about anything and that’s why things are such a mess. If a new party does succeed then they will have one heck of a mess to cleanup, which I doubt is even possible given how bad things are.

    The voucher scheme has never been an option for my area and us at the town council have tried to reach out and engage with providers but seem willing to respond or acknowledge us. What hope is there left?

    1. Avatar photo John says:

      Very hard for a new party to get in when polls overwhelmingly show massive support for the establishment uniparty

      London has become rotten with crime yet Khan is still polling at 55%

      There is no appetite for political change in this country until a figure like Javier Milei or Nayib Bukele appear

    2. Avatar photo 125us says:

      Crime in London reflects exactly national statistics. There is no London crime surge.

  5. Avatar photo No Name says:

    ”Suffice to say, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the government doesn’t really seem to care much about the voucher scheme right now.”

    The goverment needed to pull their fingers out in 2019 and commit to delivering 1Gb to everyone by 2026. Be it FTTP, HFC or 5G. It would have been possible.

    Banning Altnet overbuild until 85% of FTTP coverage was reached would have been a good start, but instead the free market took over and now loads of people are still stuck on rubbish connections.

    Openreach are also part to blame. They kept announcing areas they were going to build within the next 6 years.

    In my situation, I was told a commercial rollout is planned so no vouchers anymore. That was in 2020. It’s 2024 and the commercial rollout still hasn’t reached me, there is no sign it will be this year either. By the end of 2026 is the offical target but judging by numbers, unless there is a massive ramp up, that target won’t be met either.

    It’s a pretty poor scheme if you are denied vouchers because you’ll get fibre sometime in the next decade. A decade is a long time to wait with poor speeds.

    1. Avatar photo John says:

      “the government failed at making the free market not free, the solution should’ve been to ban the free market until I got my connection!”

      State sponsored monopolies are a very bad thing

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      how so John? My electricity supply is reliable. Water is reliable. Don’t have gas, so can’t comment. Those state sponsored *and regulated* monopolies seem to work fine.

      Meanwhile my street has multiple competing FTTP options and I can’t get any of them. Even if I could, it seems like a massive policy failure to permit rampant overbuilding in some areas while others are still waiting for their first FTTP option.

    3. Avatar photo John says:

      For one those utilities have had more than a century of existence, while our industry really only took off less than a decade ago after people figured out how to use PIA product which enabled rollouts. It is not a policy failure, in fact it has nothing to do with taxpayer money, it is a patience failure. Be patient

      If you do want to talk about monopolies, my monopolized water bill has doubled in one year. My electricity bill certainly was not reliable either with some looney months (although admittedly, our cultist greenwashed government wasn’t as incompetent as Germany’s whose electricity ballooned by 500%, guess they should’ve listened to the orange man when he told them not to be dependent on Russia )

      Meanwhile broadband bills rather than going up, they are going down with a healthy market competition

    4. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      I think you mean artificially suppressed to try to gain market share, while they burn through their other sources of credit hoping that they can achieve critical mass.

      The older altnets were assuming Openreach either would not compete, or rather would not be allowed to compete, and now they’re screwed because OR can do it bigger and better than they can.

      “figured out how to use PIA product” – one of the overbuilders here is not using OR PIA, they did their own ducts and as such every pavement has a nice black scar right down the middle. Even if they did, how is it “competition” when you offer the same product as Openreach and literally use their ducts and poles to do it?

    5. Avatar photo John says:

      I have no idea which altnet you are talking about that chooses to avoid PIA but if it is offering the same product (same slow upload) at the same price then it is not representative of the market. Using the same duct does not mean it is the same end offering

      If they left the street in a bad shape you should let your council know

    6. Avatar photo No name says:

      @john it wouldn’t be a monopoly. It would be a new provider coming in to challenge OR and VM. It would be more sensible to mandate 3 providers per area as most places can sustain that. Instead you have large towns with OR only and smaller ones with two alt nets.

      It’s not good for the consumer and it’s not even good for alt nets. All that will happen now is the providers who over built each other will fight for paltry amounts of customers each then go bust.

      There will be consolidation and the breaks for rollouts will be put on. People will wait longer for access to FTTP.

      It happened with cable in the 90s/early 2000s. Funnily enough, NTL were going to expand into my area back in 2002 but the breaks went on due to debt and it only got cable in 2019.

    7. Avatar photo John says:

      People choose to rollout where they believe the business case makes sense. Even if some get it wrong, they are not spending your money so it is not your say nor the state’s say. If you choose to open a sushi place next to 3 others, you are free to do so and fail if you can’t compete. Let the market decide. I certainly will ditch BT as soon as I can

      BDUK failing to allocate funds for vouchers is an example of how much worse it would be if it was up to the incompetent public servant class to decide

  6. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    Policy wise, FTTP overbuild = second homes, . . spot-the-difference

  7. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    John . . Mrs Thatcher’s national pie . . . .private firms expenditure is “Our” money, its part of the national economy, and if its spent badly, the economy growth rate suffers and consumers will suffer an increased level of “Tax” through higher prices (Assuming the firm(s) survive the self-induced financial crisis) and if the firm fails, supply diminishes and Jo-Jo consumer pays higher prices again. And with private firms, you don’t even get a “Sorry”, ’cause its all “Commercial-in-confidence” and funny handshake golden goodbyes to the seniors all the way to the commercial “Back-benches”.

    There’s no real difference in outcomes, both public and private sectors have their own vices and virtues. The post-mortems may be different . . viz insurance claims and legal action for damages and quantum merit when a daisy-chained commercial project goes under or the tax-payer taking the hit when one of the public service projects over-runs or goes tits. Excess cost just manifests itself differently, in the private sector its over-rumunerated and bonuses staff, dodgy expense accounting and sometimes hidden tax-free emoluments (By various schemes) and the in Public sector its over-manning and project slippage.

    Nowadays, following PFI and PPP deals between commercial concerns and government, when anything goes wrong the blame and the costs can be more or less equally apportioned. . . take the Aircraft carriers with the dodgy transmission systems, the cladding on high-rise properties, facility management contracts that go tits well short of term because the public servants , usually under political and Treasury pressure, under-cut the budget and a silly contractor still took it on ( No names no pack drill)

    At least with public schemes there’s some degree of formal accountability.

    Funny that this major switch in philosophy should suddenly appear to raise its head immediately before a general election.

    “The moving finger writes and having writ moves on”

  8. Avatar photo Peter Delaney says:

    Well, there you have it. It’s certainly more streamlined from DSIT’s point of view as it moves themselves further away from tiresome interaction with the general public.

    The public interaction on regional contracts is becoming increasingly minimal; Announce the headline numbers of a signed contract with great fanfare. Reveal little to nothing about the build schedule which is left almost entirely in the contract winners hands to announce as they see fit. When will I get service ? Months ? Years ? Never ?

    Now DSIT have removed themselves from the loop on vouchers and point you directly to suppliers instead.

    There also used to be a public page describing vouchers in relation to the regional procurement process which had a link to a list of countrywide UPRNs eligible for voucher subsidy. With this you could find out the UPRN for your property on the internet and see if it was in the list.
    This is now also one of the many gigabit voucher ‘page not found’ links.

    In general, from a public perspective, DSIT/BDUK documents posted on the government website are becoming less useful as time goes by as information disappears, becomes less specific, or out of date.

    Would be nice to see how effectively public money is being spent other than beefing up the bottom line of large commercial companies.

  9. Avatar photo REAL Rural says:

    Since when is Greater London a “rural location”? I live in an actual rural location, where my nearest neighbour is over half a mile away, and we’re not eligible!

    And a warning to stay well away from Gigaclear – they tore up half the roads nd pavements in my last village, then refused to connect most of the residents (including some who had gigacrap equipment forced onto their property). We had to get the local MP involved to try and force them to come back, to which they replied “we have no plans to return and complete connections”. To this date they haven’t returned, and it’s been 5 years.

    As for openreach, every time I look at the estimated connection time, it’s two years away. It was 2 years away when I moved here five years ago, and it’s still 2 years away now. I even offered to pay all the costs of having fibre cabinets, poles etc installed, as well as the connection fees, and guess what? Two years…

  10. Avatar photo greggles says:

    The problem with these schemes, is twofold.

    1 – They came too early, these schemes would be to fill gaps that the private market left behind, however they were activated in the early days of the private rollout, so where the gaps would be was effectively guessed and I suspect this was a political means of getting FTTP to areas of political preference early.
    2 – They are so generous with funding, they disrupted the commercial rollout e.g. many urban areas have likely lost out as a result of these schemes. They are also discriminate in that they cover rural areas only (likely political) yet there is urban coverage not spots.

Comments are closed

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