Government Fibre Broadband £3K vouchers are back!

The UK government has launched a new nationwide Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS), which is funded by a pot of £67m and aims to provide vouchers worth up to £3000 for businesses (SME) or £500 to residents to help with the costs of connecting to “full fibre” (FTTP/H) broadband.

The GBVS scheme is said to “build on” the wider £200m Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme (we’ve been told the £67m is “new spend” from the £31bn National Productivity Investment Fund), which recently allocated £95m of its funding to help stimulate commercial investment in “gigabit capable” broadband across 13 areas (mostly urban locations).

All of this is intended to help support the government’s commitment to make “full fibre” broadband available to at least 10 million homes and businesses by 2022, which they consider to be the “gold standard” of connectivity alongside the forthcoming rollout of ultrafast 5G based Mobile technology.

The above is also being supported by Ofcom’s recent regulatory changes (e.g. easier access to Openreach’s (BT) cable ducts and a simpler electronic communications code), as well as the government’s 5 years business rates holiday for new fibre optic lines and their £400m Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIIF); the latter is targeted more at alternative network providers.

We should point out that some local authorities already have similar broadband voucher schemes of their own, such as the £2.8m Connect Westminster project in London or the Ultrafast Connectivity Voucher scheme in Wales.

The new one is also similar to the old Connection Voucher Scheme for UK businesses, which gobbled £81m+ of public funding and approved grants for 54,000+ SME businesses (15,000 in Greater London alone) across 50 UK city areas, enabling them to install a “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) service via individual vouchers worth up to £3,000 (here).

Sadly the old scheme came to an end in October 2015, after the funding dried up, but now the government seem to be trying it again for ultrafast “gigabit capable” (1000Mbps) broadband ISP services. In addition, the new scheme is also open to residential use, albeit only up to £500 per voucher but we understand that it may be possible to aggregate these (very useful for community builds).

The new voucher scheme has already been trialled in four areas at a cost of £2m (here) and as a result of that around 1,000 vouchers were issued to small businesses. Vouchers may only be used to support the cost of eligible connections. Suppliers can offer vouchers to both new and existing customers.

Sadly the only way residents can benefit from the voucher scheme is as part of a local community group, which must also include small businesses. “Residents and businesses taking part in a group scheme are able to join together to pool the value of their vouchers. Within this group the total value of vouchers used by businesses must always be greater than the value of vouchers taken by residents,” said HM Treasury in a statement.

The fact that vouchers can be aggregated in this way is vitally important because the government recognises that “in some areas the value of a single voucher will not fully meet the installation costs of a gigabit capable full fibre connection.” Indeed such connections can cost tens of thousands to deliver and possibly even more in a few very remote areas.

The scheme is now running and will be open until March 2021 or until all available funding has been allocated.

We believe that fixed wireless networks might also be able to apply, provided they can deliver a 100Mbps+ connection with the potential to reach Gigabit speeds in the future (easier said than done).

If you would like to apply for a voucher please complete our contact page here or call us on 0800 107 9444

David Jones

Phoenix Communications

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