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The government is providing up to £210m worth of voucher funding as immediate help for people suffering from slow broadband speeds in rural areas.

From Thursday 8 April 2021, eligible SMEs will be able could get vouchers worth up to £3,500 to help cover the costs of installing gigabit broadband.

What is the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme?

Originally launched in March 2018, the scheme provided eligible areas across the UK with vouchers to cover the installation costs of bringing gigabit connectivity to people’s homes and businesses. So far, more than 66,000 vouchers worth up to £127 million have been issued to premises across the UK.

The new vouchers worth up to £1,500 for residents and up to £3,500 for businesses will go live on 8 April 2021 and mean that rural areas will not have to wait for supplier contracts under Project Gigabit to reach them.

Who is eligible?

Businesses in rural locations that meet the following criteria can use vouchers to support the cost of installing new gigabit-capable connections when part of a group project. 

Group projects are when two or more eligible businesses get together to combine their vouchers towards the shared cost of installation. Single connections are not eligible for the scheme.

To be eligible for a voucher, businesses must:

  • Have 249 employees or less
  • Have an annual turnover no greater than £36 million and/or have an annual balance sheet less than £18 million.
  • Have existing broadband speeds less than 100Mbps
  • Operate in an area where a gigabit capable network isn’t likely to be built in the near future  
  • Have no government-funded contract currently planned or in place to improve the network already

New connection speed must reach: 

  • At least double your existing speed if your current speed is less than 50Mbps 
  • At least 100Mbps if your current speed is more than 50Mbps 

Rural areas are defined using agreed standard measures in the relevant part of the UK. You can find more about rural classifications here:

England & Wales – ONS definitions

Northern Ireland – NISRA definitions

Scotland – NRS  definitions

Not-for-profit and charitable organisations that qualify as SMEs will also be eligible.

How to apply

Businesses can access the scheme through a registered supplier in their area.

A list of participating suppliers will be released on the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme website on 8 April when the fund launches.

How it works

All businesses need to do is sign up for a gigabit capable connection with a registered supplier who will request a voucher from the government. Businesses will then be sent an email asking them to confirm that the work is going ahead, once this is done the supplier will begin work to deliver the business their new connection. The government will be informed once the work is done and will conduct some tests to make sure the service is live and working.

For more information on the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme go to https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/.

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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