The Urban Broadband Fund may not be in the exact form that was originally intended, but there is one massive advantage to the voucher scheme as it allows businesses themselves to decide if they want to use the scheme, rather than grandiose projects that are built as part of a council's dream but have little real impact on the businesses they were meant to help.
The Connection Vouchers website has gone live and includes a long list of 27 providers who are registered under the scheme. For those who still think that to get fibre for a business connectivity that you need to talk to BT, the list is a good cross section of the competition that exists and includes a mixture of technologies such as bonded DSL, EFM (Ethernet first mile) using copper to partial fibre (FTTC) and onto full fat fibre connectivity via FTTP and not forgetting fixed wireless access at up to 100 Mbps.
To help answer some of the common questions we have published some of more common questions and answers that we expect to arise around the voucher scheme.
"Thousands of small and medium sized businesses across the UK currently suffer from being unable to access adequate broadband speeds. Instead, they are languishing in the slow lane with broadband which claims to be ‘superfast’ but is actually anything but. This can have a major impact on business performance, with unreliable speeds directly hindering their growth.
Hyperoptic already offers ground-breaking fibre broadband technology to businesses in London. We are involved in the UBF to support the Government to break down barriers to true hyperfast broadband in other UK cities, and in doing so, enable small businesses to fast track their business growth. By providing fast, efficient and affordable services we are confident that we will contribute to UBF’s long-term success on a national level."Comment from Dana Tobak, Managing Director of Hyperoptic
Hyperoptic being on the list may be a surprise to some, as to date it has been focussed on London, but with expansion outside London underway and a 100 Mbps leased line service available from £250 they are planning to offer service to businesses in three of the four test cities Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester. Hyperoptic can also push speeds all the way to symmetric Gigabit.
Hopefully those administering the voucher scheme will operate a lot faster than the DCMS, which has taken since Autumn 2011 to get the spending of the money allocated to the Urban Broadband Fund underway. We should emphasis that even outside the trial cities, many of the faster more symmetric than standard broadband options the 26 providers are offering can be ordered, and for those SMEs who feel bypassed by BT with its commercial superfast roll-out they may find solutions that can supply business parks with low contention connectivity.
Update 2pm: The list of providers was 26 long when we looked this morning, it appears that BT has now been added to bring the total to 27, though there is no BT logo so people are likely to miss the entry if scrolling quickly. The fibre on demand service heavily promoted in the BDUK roll-outs, but still in its early market deployment is not mentioned by any of the providers.