Business in five cities around the UK can now apply for vouchers worth up to £3,000 that can be used to secure access to superfast broadband services.
The Connection Vouchers scheme is currently under a two-month trial. Firms in Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh, Manchester and Salford are able to apply for the vouchers, which start from £250 and can be used to pay for superfast connections to their premises.
There are some provisos to the deal, with firms having to take at least 30Mbps services, employing fewer than 250 staff and having a turnover of under £40m.
The connection costs must also be over £250 and a six-month contract with a supplier of the services must be signed. The deal is eligible to home workers, but only if that is the primary place of business, not an occasional location.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it had chosen the five cities as they had proven they had a “credible ‘demand stimulation’ plan in place” to inform businesses of the offer and that there is a diverse supplier market in the area.
The money for the scheme has come from the government’s £100m Urban Broadband Fund (UBF) that will create up to 10 ‘super-connected’ cities across the UK. A further £50m was added to the scheme on the back of interest from cities around the UK.
The government had intended to give this money outright to councils to help them roll out services and install high-speed WiFi networks in public. However, legal challenges from BT and Virgin Media over a rollout in Birmingham forced the government to rethink its plans, resulting in the voucher scheme.
The news comes on the same day that BT secured contracts worth £45m to roll out superfast services in remote parts of Oxfordshire and Worcestershire.
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