KC becomes latest ISP to step in after super connected city voucher scheme suspension, but wants more government funding allocated
SMBs in Hull and East Yorkshire will receive a discount of up to £1,000 off the installation cost of KC’s superfast broadband service following the suspension of the government’s super connected city voucher scheme, which offered grants of up to £3,000 to cover installation fees.
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, and 55,000 companies across the UK have received grants.
More than 1,000 businesses used the voucher scheme to access speeds of up to 250Mbps with KC ‘Lightstream’ and the operator is lobbying the government to allocate more funding. But until then, it says it wants to help, claiming the sudden suspension of the programme has caused many local businesses to miss out.
“Because the scheme ended with very little notice, we know there are many local businesses – perhaps hundreds – that missed out,” said Alan Worthing, director of business at KC. “We want to help as many local businesses as possible get affordable access to ultrafast connectivity, enabling them to work in new ways to boost productivity, efficiency and profitability.”
Firms with fewer than 250 employees or volunteers and a turnover of less than £41 million who have not already benefited from the voucher scheme are eligible, with applications accepted until 31 December.
Any SMB already covered by the superfast network deployment will not have to pay a £120 connection fee, while businesses outside areas of coverage will only have to pay £1,000 – half the usual cost.
BT and Virgin Media do not operate telephone or broadband services in Hull due to KCs historic advantage in the city. As a condition of its licence renewal in 1914, KC was required to purchase the local telephone infrastructure.
Super connected cities
“The KC-funded offer will, in many cases, enable local businesses to connect to our game-changing Lightstream broadband network completely free of charge,” added Worthing. “In areas where we haven’t yet installed the fibre infrastructure, businesses will be able to hook up to Lightstream at a significantly reduced cost.
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.
CityFibre and Virgin Media have also announced similar offers with the latter also calling for more government funding to be made available. However the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has not made any suggestion this will happen.
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