Government Extends Super Connected Cities Broadband Scheme Until 2016

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.

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Chancellor’s Autumn Statement also reveals that the number of northern cities in the Super Connected Cities will be ‘doubled’

SMBs in the 22 ‘Super Connected Cities’ will have an extra year to apply for vouchers worth up to £3,000 to cover the cost of installing superfast broadband after the government extended the initiative until April 2016 and will increase the number of locations it is available.

The extension was revealed in the full version of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, which also revealed that 5,000 businesses have already benefited from the scheme but did not say how much of the £100 million available has been allocated.

In September, it was reported that 3,000 SMBs had received £7.5 million in total with the government launching a £2 million advertising campaign and a simplified application process in a bid to encourage more firms to sign up.

Super Connected Cities vouchers

FibreAn additional £40 million has now been allocated to extend the scheme until March 2016 and to more cities. It is unclear which locations will be added other than that the number or northern cities will be “doubled” and that vouchers should be available by April 2015.

The existing 22 Super Connected Cities are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton, Hove, Cambridge, Coventry, Derby, Leeds, Oxford, Portsmouth, Salford, York, Newcastle, Manchester, Newport, Aberdeen, Perth and Londonderry/Derry, all of which were successful in their bids.

To be eligible for a voucher, applicants must be an SMB, registered charity, social enterprise or sole trader and the cost installing business broadband must be more than £100. There are 500 registered suppliers for the scheme, including BT, Virgin Media Business and TalkTalk Business and gigabit FTTP network operators Hyperoptic and CityFibre.

The superconnected 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.

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