UK Voucher Scheme Overhauled

The government is overhauling its plans for getting ultra-fast broadband to UK businesses after a disappointing take-up of its current scheme.

Initially the government had expressed hope of reaching out to over 200,000 small businesses; however with just 3,000 businesses taking up the vouchers, only £7.5m out of a pot of £100m has been spent.

The deadline for the money to be spent is March 2015, and the government is keen to galvanise interest leading up to the final date.

Changes aimed at making it easier to get the money include a redesigned website and a more streamlined process of applying for a grant.

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said: "This is a golden opportunity for businesses to take advantage of better broadband. The grant takes away the costs of installation, which are normally charged up front or added to monthly charges."

The plan to help get ultra-fast broadband to small and medium sized enterprises is part of a wider government strategy to create a network of super-connected cities around the UK.

More than 20 cities including London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Manchester and Cambridge were earmarked for ultra-fast broadband, defined as minimum speeds of 80Mbps.

Malcom Corbett, head of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (Inca) isn't convinced the scheme will be successful.

He said: "The scheme has not proved as successful as government had hoped. The problem is that the government can't be seen to aggregate demand as that will fall foul of European state aid rules."

Inca is helping small businesses take advantage of the voucher scheme by encouraging them to group together to make the most of the benefits.

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