Connection Voucher scheme to kick off on August 5th
The Urban Broadband Fund is set to start spending money very soon, and rather than launch all the areas at once, a staggered approach with four test areas that will operate for two months during August and September 2013 will be taken. The four locations will be Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester/Salford.
The connection vouchers will rely on operators having registered under the scheme for each city where they are willing to operate. A suppliers briefing reveals that those applying to use the voucher need to be looking to make a significant step change in the speed/quality of their broadband connection and need to obtain two quotes, then once their application is approved they can order from their chosen supplier and after the install has been completed the money will be paid directly to the supplier from the cities fund.
The vouchers have a minimum spend of £250 through to a maximum of £3,000 and the applicant remains liable for the VAT element. Interestingly the step change to qualify is not that significant requiring speeds to be over 30 Mbps but other factors like connection reliability and upload speeds can be taken into account. The voucher only covers installation costs.
Salford City Council already has its terms and conditions for the scheme online, and while the guidance from the BDUK is that the scheme can be used for consumer connections, along with some of the other cities they are restricting the vouchers to firms with 1 to 249 persons and an annual turnover below €50 million. Small businesses that operate from a residential address can still apply. Certain exclusions on the types of business that can apply exist, such that the following are not eligible:
- Betting shop or casino
- A massage parlour
- A pay-day loan company
- A pawnbroker
- An adult shop or venue
- Shisha bar
The voucher scheme is connection agnostic, and fixed wireless services will qualify. The speed targets also mean that potentially FTTC based services or cable DOCSIS 3.0 products could qualify, after the original goal for the scheme to be a show case for ultra-fast connections it is disappointing to see the watering down of ambitions once again.