Government issues renewed SuperConnected cities push as March 2015 deadline for superfast broadband vouchers nears
The government has reminded SMBs in the 22 ‘superconnected cities’ they have until March 2015 to apply for vouchers worth up to £3,000 to cover the cost of installing superfast broadband.
It is claimed that almost 3,000 SMBs have so far received grants, with hundreds more going through the application process, but the FT claims that just £7.5 million of the £100 million available has been handed out so far with just six months left to run, with many SMBs unaware of the programme or its benefits.
The application process is set to be streamlined to encourage businesses to sign up and there will be a £2 million advertising campaign in the 22 cities, which were named following a bidding process.
Superconnected cities vouchers
The 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.
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.
“We want to make sure that small businesses have the help and support they need to grow and prosper in our digital age,” says Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Sajid Javid. “That is why we are providing these grants to help small businesses meet their challenges. I urge all eligible small businesses to apply straight away and help boost their businesses with faster broadband.”
The government says the scheme will contribute to its goal of achieving 97 percent superfast coverage by 2017, alongside the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, which has so far connected more than one million homes in areas not covered by commercial deployments.
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.