55,000 SMBs Get Government Grants For Superfast Broadband

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

Follow on: Google +

Latest figures for suspended super connected city voucher scheme are revealed, but no indication more money will be allocated for superfast broadband

The government says 55,000 SMBs employing more than one million people have benefited from the super connected city voucher scheme, which offered grants of up to £3,000 to cover the installation of superfast broadband.

The scheme, which replaced a more substantial vision of city-owned network infrastructure, was suspended earlier this year after funding was exhausted. It initially struggled to attract applicants, before a marketing push and expansion to more cities increased popularity. An additional £40 million was pumped into the project late last year.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says the initiative has had the twin benefits of providing smaller businesses with access to new markets and services but also stimulating the superfast broadband sector.

Super connected cities

packetfrontIt says just 14 percent of the cash was given to BT, Virgin Media and Sky, with the remainder handed out to smaller players like CityFibre and Hyperoptic. Virgin Media and CityFibre have both promised to waive some installation costs following the conclusion of the programme, with the former calling for more money to be allocated.

However it appears as though the government is happy with the results of the scheme and there is no suggestion the voucher offer will be extended.

“Our Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme has been a tremendous success. More than 55,000 small businesses across the UK have taken up the offer, many of which are already seeing significant boosts to their business as a result of improved broadband speeds,” said Ed Vaizey, minister for the digital economy. “We’re transforming the UK’s digital landscape, helping cities to create new jobs and attract investment to make the UK an enviable business destination.”

The super connected cities vision was originally intended to provide the winning cities with funds to build superfast broadband and public Wi-Fi networks. However following legal challenges from ISPs, this was watered down to a voucher scheme, although the Wi-Fi aspect has remained unaffected, with BT and Virgin Media building wireless infrastructure for city councils.

Under EU regulations, the government is forbidden from intervening in urban areas, so the existing Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme aiding local authorities is limited to rural areas.

London-based business were the most active, receiving more than 14,500 vouchers, while the North West had 8,200 successful applications and Yorkshire and the Humber 7,400. Scotland and Wales both had almost 3,000 vouchers allocated, while Northern Ireland just a shade under 2,500.

A full city by city breakdown can be seen below.

super connected city voucher scheme Nov 2015

What do you know about fibre broadband? Take our quiz!