£500k voucher scheme is an extra boost for rural broadband

A Government broadband voucher scheme, set up to provide faster broadband services, has helped more than 200 Buckinghamshire homes and businesses since its launch in 2019.

And this week (w/b 14 September) Buckinghamshire Council announced another half a million pound investment to help reach hundreds more.

It’s part of the Government’s £200 million Rural Gigabit Connectivity programme, helping to provide connections capable of gigabit (1,000Mbs) speeds for businesses and homes in more remote and rural locations.

Through the scheme, rural businesses and residents with broadband speeds of less than 100mbps have been able to apply for vouchers worth £1,500 per home and up to £3,500 for each small to medium-sized business to support the cost of installing new faster and more reliable connections.

The Council will use its £500k from the Getting Building Fund – a fund created by Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government for “shovel-ready” projects that would help economic recovery – to top up the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme for those in the county.

From this week, the maximum voucher funding for homes is raised to £3,500, and the Council will top up the extra £2,000 from the Getting Building Fund.

Small to medium-sized businesses will be able to apply for a new voucher maximum of £7,000 – an extra £3,500 per voucher – improving broadband connections for communities in the most rural and hardest-to-reach areas of the county.

Funding for these vouchers will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis until the end of March 2021, when the scheme is scheduled to close.

Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, said that good digital connectivity was essential for all residents and businesses particularly now more people are working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Martin said: “It’s important we invest in excellent broadband for our rural communities, and I believe this is what we’re doing not only with the recently announced Buckinghamshire Rural Business Broadband project, but also with the top-up to this voucher scheme.

‘It’s a fantastic achievement to have 96.4% of Buckinghamshire premises with access to superfast broadband, and we need to continue working to ensure that the final 3.6% can benefit from the digital highway, which is why we are investing £500,000 in this initiative.”

Matt Warman, Digital Infrastructure Minister said: “To level up the country, we want everyone to have access to fast and reliable broadband and I’m delighted to see Buckinghamshire Council working with us to make this happen.

“We will ensure rural areas don’t miss out on securing next-generation gigabit speeds through our voucher scheme, and the countless economic and social benefits that it will bring.

“It is quick and easy to check if you’re eligible for a voucher, and I urge people in Buckinghamshire to do this by visiting our website today.”

For those interested in the scheme, full details on the terms and conditions can be found at https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk where a list of local suppliers is also available. Full details on the ‘top-up’ funding for Buckinghamshire residents and businesses can be found at https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/Buckinghamshire.