Published: 29th Mar 2017
A government scheme that offered vouchers to help small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to get connected to superfast broadband has been officially closed after all of the funding was claimed.
Although the initiative had previously been suspended, this is the first time that the government has confirmed that it is permanently over, as well as releasing statistics about the project’s success.
The scheme, which was offered by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, provided vouchers worth between £100 and £3,000 to SMEs, which could be spent installing superfast broadband.
Ed Vaizey, minister for the digital economy, said: “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. 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.”
Overall, London-based SMEs claimed 14,500 vouchers, compared to 8,200 in the north-west, 7,400 in Yorkshire and the Humber, almost 3,00 each for Scotland and Wales and just under 2,500 for Northern Ireland.
Reports suggest that 14 per cent of the vouchers were spent on services from BT, with the remainder going to smaller providers such as CityFibre and Hyperoptic, despite concerns that BT would replicate its near-monopoly on broadband delivery to rural areas under the government’s Broadband UK initiative.
The voucher scheme was originally intended to be a fund for selected cities to build their own superfast networks, but this was reduced down following a legal challenge from a number of commercial internet service providers.
SMEs were originally slow to claim the vouchers, leading to the deadline for applications being extended, and the provision of an additional £40 million to the funding pot. However, the government has not suggested that it plans to extend or renew the scheme.
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