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Small businesses urged to apply for broadband vouchers

The government is strongly recommending that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make use of a £2,500 voucher to help with installing high-speed broadband and increase rural communities’ access to the internet

The £67m government-run Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme has already been taken up by more than 7,000 UK businesses who have used it to reduce the cost of installation of fibre-optic cables. The scheme was originally expected to run until March 2021 but demand for funds has been so high, particularly in the South West, South East, Yorkshire and the North West, that the whole funding package is expected to be committed a year early.

The vouchers ‘can be used by small businesses and the local communities surrounding them to contribute to the installation cost of a gigabit-capable connection. Businesses can claim up to £3,000 against the cost of connection either individually or as part of a group project. Residents can benefit from the scheme with a voucher worth £500 as part of a group project’.

To ensure the maximum number of businesses benefit, the maximum value of the vouchers is to be reduced from £3,000 to £2,500 in order to incentivise the pooling of vouchers. This will enable the scheme to reach more properties, with the government expecting that more than 1,000 additional businesses and homes will benefit from this change.

The scheme is being operated by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), which will carefully monitor the take-up of the offer following this change in order to determine if a higher-value voucher in some areas would be justified. It is being carried out in order to achieve the government’s goal of providing the UK with ‘nationwide full fibre broadband coverage by 2033’, in conjunction with a recently announced £200m fund for developing infrastructure in hard-to-reach areas of the UK, including the Borderlands, Cornwall and the Welsh valleys.

High-speed broadband access is of increasing importance to SMEs with the approach of the Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT deadline. From April 2019, all businesses with a turnover of £85,000 or more will be required to upload their VAT figures to HMRC online, necessitating access to broadband coverage.

Mike Cherry, chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: ‘Access to good broadband is vital for small businesses across the UK, and with the clock ticking on this scheme, it is important small businesses do not delay if they want to apply for funding.’

The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme is here

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