The government has announced that more than 55,000 small and medium-sized businesses have taken advantage of its scheme to boost broadband connectivity.
The Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme was designed to allow more firms to move into a faster digital market and connect to superfast broadband.
The initiative allocated all of its available £40m funding since April 2015 and provided businesses with the opportunity to apply for grants of up to £3,000 each to cover the costs of installing improved broadband.
Firms could then use the voucher to get a broadband connection from a wide variety of suppliers, with over 800 participating in the scheme. The government said the vast majority (86 per cent) of the value of the scheme went to smaller suppliers around the UK, while the big three names – BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk – accounted for 14 per cent of the total value of the vouchers.
There was a regional spread of vouchers issued too:
(1) London – 14,545
(2) North West – 8,254
(3) Yorkshire and the Humber – 7,377
(4) Midlands – 6,799
(5) South West – 3,630
(6) South East – 3,114
(7) Scotland – 2,899
(8) Wales – 2,887
(9) Northern Ireland – 2,411
(10) North East – 1,721
(11) East of England – 1,459
The government reported that for every £1 it invested in the scheme, more than £5 will be returned to the UK economy, with businesses using the scheme reporting, on average, a £1,300 per year increase in profits and a new job created for every four new connections.
Virgin Media Business recently announced it would be trialling a free small business broadband installation scheme, following the closure of the government’s Super connected Cities voucher programmes.
Mike Smith, director of small business at Virgin Media Business, 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 said a range of businesses have used the scheme – from architects to estate agents, mechanics, events coordinators, cafes, caterers and graphic designers.
Ed Vaizey, digital economy minister, said the 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,” he explained. “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.”
Despite this, the scheme has remained closed, with the government saying its success has stimulated the market. Those eligible firms which didn’t apply for one of the vouchers could still apply for a free or discounted broadband boost via the suppliers offering similar support.
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