Broadband News

Broadband USO or Rural Gigabit voucher which is better if you have slow broadband?

If short on time and are here for the summary alone: Our advice if you are not happy with the broadband USO or want to see costs shared between you and neighbours, look at the Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme it may only be £1,500/home but you can group together properties and a business can claim up to £3,500. Additionally the voucher scheme has a much wider set of providers, including ones doing fibre on demand and others using technology such as fixed wireless access. The downside to the voucher scheme may be more work for someone to run liase with people locally and get support and keep that support going until the service is ready to buy and importantly buy the new service.

For veterans of the slow broadband world that some people are seeing high quotes for FTTP under the broadband USO should be of no surprise. The reason it should be no surprise is that BT is requesting fibre on demand quotes for individuals and then sharing the desktop survey quote, which from the years of seeing others receiving these quotes from other providers means we are used to people getting massively high quotes.

ISPreview picked up on Matt Warman the Digital Infrastructure Minister talking on issues with large quotes under the broadband USO, and alongside the useful summary from Mark before we get into the day to day hunt for better broadband for our maps we have a few things to add.

We have since the first days of the USO had vary little confidence with a large provider such as BT delivering FTTP quote, due to the inconsistencies of the fibre on demand (FoD) scheme seen over a number of years. Even when small ISP (e.g. Cerberus Networks and Spectrum Internet are two well known FoD names) are interacting with Openreach unusually high quotes have appeared from time to time, sometimes risking £250 and moving onto an actual survey visit has reduced the costs to a level the customer is happy with. Another issue is that when people interact with firms like Cerberus it will be people who likely know about fibre on demand and the mechanisms, with the broadband USO you are embracing a much wider slice of the general public.

The Fibre on Demand scheme in its original guise was relatively affordable, but then things changed and pricing went up. We have never had anyone from Openreach say why, but we suspect it was a case of fibre on demand consuming too much time and now with a focus on delivering millions of premises of FTTP the diversion of delivering FTTP to the harder premises is something they could do without.

At the end of the day the high costs for the slowest properties should be no surprise and that especially includes Ofcom, BT and Ministers, it is simple logic since the commercial roll-outs are doing the cheapest, the BDUK projects while nothing like their original scale in terms of properties built per month are dealing slowly with those that fall within their value for money criteria (this usually means funding of under £1,800 per property). 

There is an important lesson here, the £5 billion of funding to reach the final 10 to 20% of the UK is believed to be looking at lots of small lots which while great for encouraging small local providers to take part will push the costs up and could see some lots that are likely to be more expensive to serve not seeing anyone bid on them. In effect as you push deeper into the rural areas unless you can rely on lots of free community labour and goodwill things can get very expensive in terms of the number of hours of labour.

Another factor is that just being close to a community does not always reduce the cost. When a village a mile away is wired up for FTTP what will happen is they will plan for that village alone, rather than the village and surrounding few miles. Even in smaller hamlet situations the PON segment limit of 32 needs to remembered, so there will be times that a new PON needs running from the splitter. Add to this the likely accounting techniques used e.g. if a new headend cabinet is needed at the main exchange to add capacity for a village then in the planning part of this cost will be accounted for, but some of that cost will also be shared out to areas built into subsequent months and years. 

The last General Election saw one potential solution and that was nationalise broadband provision in the UK, with a decade long roll-out planned to get FTTP to everyone and by using general taxation it would remove the sticker shock for individuals but we strongly suspect that the slowest properties would end up waiting for a few years before seeing improvements. The usual need to see progress would mean that rather than devoting the first three years or roll-out to dealing with 3% of premises that three years would be used deal with getting FTTP to half the UK.


I'm in the process of looking at a CFP for our area (10 addresses) in rural Kent, and as such we can claim up to £7000 per household (all under 30Mbps). It seems like a no brainer not to give this a shot especially with this voucher value! The main ducts should be clear as they ran fibre past us just over 12 months ago, so no digging required, the rest is overhead - would imagine 4-5 vouchers would cover it (hopefully).

  • SlimJ
  • 12 days ago

I have been managing a B4RN project to get gigabit fibre installed for some 750 properties north of Chester. The Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme does depend upon the project consisting of a mix of at least 1 business voucher to no more than 9 residential vouchers.

What we find the most troublesome is to persuade residents that they have to apply for vouchers now, or the project will never get the go-ahead. A lot of residents already have what they say is adequate service, but they don't realise how long BT will take to deliver an inferior service, that will cost significantly extra.

  • mollcons
  • 12 days ago

I used to have FTTC from a cabinet just over a kilometre away, which gave around 30mb but over time got slower as more people got FTTC.

About 150 metres way from my house, Openreach have installed a new fibre cabinet. I think it s some sort of combined cabinet and fibre cabinet, but I'm not sure of that. It was funded by some sort of local initiative.

The trouble is that I can't use it, and nor can anyone else who already has a phone line.

Only premises with no existing wire get a predicted speed of 60+ mb/sec. To be honest, I only found one!
The rest of us get about 22+ predicted.

  • hoopla
  • 12 days ago

Order a new phone line, get it up and running, order faster broadband via the new line then cancel the old one?

  • wrightie
  • 12 days ago

The cancel and order would not help.

Existing lines where infill cabinets are built may need to wait for a live to live process to take place, without details of postcodes and cabinets involved hard to say much more.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 12 days ago

slimj so how payn premises are openreach passing and not covering so you can get a solution for 10 premises at 7k a premise

whats a no brainer it to probably try and include a load more premises and so your vouchers coverage halves by each premise (40 or 50 at 3.k or something similar got to be better than 10 premises at 7k

  • fastman
  • 10 days ago

Fastman - From my knowledge, from where they ran cable previously (assuming it would be run from same location, if indeed more fibre needs to be run!), only 2 properties would be passed and they are likely already receiving 50Mbps. The ideal solution would have been if Openreach has considered us prior to running cables previously, thus killing many birds with one stone... but hey ho. :) I've submitted address now and now await response from Openreach for initial build cost.

  • SlimJ
  • 9 days ago

This article is misleading and does not cover the real difficulties in delivering full fibre rurally. I speak as a community volunteer who has delivered FTTC to about 1,200 rural homes. I’m now working won FTTP – using the Rural Gigabit scheme. Note, only Openreach wants to bother with my area (rural parts of London Borough of Bromley), so the Government view that there is choice is plain wrong. Added to this the fact that I have to do all the hard work of convincing residents to sign up for FTTP, and you have a Government “strategy” which in reality is a shambles.

  • StevieRay
  • 9 days ago

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