Virgin Media Business has launched the trial of a free small business broadband installation scheme to help small firms get online, following the closure of the government’s Super Connected Cities (SCC) voucher programmes.
The SCC voucher programme launched in 2010, offered small businesses in 50 cities across the UK grants of up to £3,000 to cover broadband installation costs. Virgin Media Business – the arm of Virgin Media that provides products and services to UK businesses – said the high levels of demand for the vouchers had led to it committing to cover up to £1,000 of installation costs for new business customers (in the same SCC cities where it has a network).
Virgin pointed out that 86 per cent of installations completed under the SCC initiative had cost less than £1,000.
There are 50 cities able to take part in the scheme, including London, Manchester, Cardiff, Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the programme will be trialled until the end of the year.
Mike Smith, director of small business at Virgin Media Business, said: “We’ve connected thousands of small businesses with the support of the Super Connected Cities voucher scheme which was a huge success to help businesses get online.”
He said that given the “extraordinary take-up among businesses and healthy competition between hundreds of connectivity suppliers , we strongly encourage the government to reintroduce the scheme”.
The government scheme came to a close after allocating all of its funds. The scheme was originally intended to run until March, but was boosted from April with a £40m government challenge fund.
Earlier this year, the government’s Connection Voucher scheme confirmed that grants worth between £100 and £3,000 had been issued to 14,000 SMEs to help them install a super-fast broadband connection. More details on eligibility for that can be found here, as it operates on a first come first served basis until 31 March 2016.
Smith said he hoped the initiative would provide a temporary fix to help more of the UK’s small firms “get online and thrive with the fastest available broadband”.
“We know one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses is upfront costs, including for the likes of broadband,” he added.
In February, Virgin Media announced it was to invest £3bn in improving its fibre optic broadband network, increasing its reach from 13m to 17m homes. It said it was the biggest investment in broadband infrastructure in the UK for more than a decade and would also serve to create 6,000 new jobs – 1,000 of which would be apprenticeships.
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