More than 55,000 small and medium businesses (SMBs) have received a voucher for high-speed broadband, the UK government has revealed.
Under the £40m Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme, SMBs could apply for a voucher worth up to £3,000 that they could spend on installing faster and better network connections.
The idea behind the scheme was to transform cities to create new jobs and attract investment across the UK.
London-based SMBs ended up with most financial support, with 14,545 vouchers issued to firms in the capital, including more than 1,000 businesses in and around the silicon roundabout area. This is unsurprising considering how many smaller firms and tech startups are based across the city, but is at odds with the government's plans to create business hubs in other areas of the country.
The North West was next in line, with more than 8,000 SMBs in the region getting a voucher, while Yorks and Humber, and the Midlands received around 7,000 each.
After London, Manchester was the most successful city with just over 6,000 vouchers issued.
The East of England and the North East were the losers in the battle for broadband, with fewer than 2,000 vouchers each. Carlisle received the lowest number of vouchers of all the individual cities at just 52.
The successful applicants included architects, estate agents, mechanics, event coordinators, cafés, graphic designers and caterers.
The scheme was open to SMBs in 50 cities around the UK to receive grants of up to £3,000 to cover the cost of installing high-speed broadband services in their premises.
The scheme went live in April and was in high demand. By early September, 40,000 businesses had already been awarded grants, and by 14 October, the government closed the broadband voucher scheme for new applications.
The government was keen to point out that the scheme also benefited small businesses at the other end of the pipeline: the broadband providers. Of the 800-plus suppliers that participated in the scheme, 86 per cent of the funding went to smaller suppliers around the UK.
BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk accounted for only 14 per cent of the total value of the vouchers, the government noted.
The government also boasted that a new job was created for every four new connections.
Despite the scheme's success and apparent value to the economy and country, the government has no plans to relaunch it at a future date it seems.
"Whilst the scheme has now closed, its success has stimulated the market, with some suppliers now offering similar support through offers of free installation and equipment. This means that those eligible businesses who didn't apply for one of the government's Broadband Connection vouchers still have time to apply for a free or discounted broadband boost for their business," the DCMS noted.
The clear demand for faster broadband services comes amid debates in the broadband market about whether BT's Openreach division, responsible for most fibre rollouts in the UK, should become a standalone company or stay within BT.
BT also recently outlined plans for the next five years, citing an ambition to ensure that everyone in the UK can get speeds of 5Mbps to 10Mbps and as many as possible of between 300Mbps and 1Gbps.
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