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The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published new figures on its Broadband Connection Voucher scheme, revealing that over the lifetime of the programme, over 55,000 SMEs around the UK took advantage of the grants.
The scheme, which was backed with £40m of public money, provided up to £3,000 to cover the installation costs of superfast broadband. It was wound up in October 2015 after the available funding, which was not ring-fenced, ran dry.
The government said the scheme had helped to create one new job for every four new connections, and increased profits by an average of £1,300 per annum for every participating business. It estimated that, for every £1 it invested in the scheme, over £5 would be returned to the economy.
Other benefits to SMEs included the ability to access new markets through better communication with customers and suppliers; increased security, through the ability to back up data quicker; increased productivity, employee effectiveness and efficiency, and customer service.
DCMS also revealed that the vast majority – close to 90% – of the total value of the scheme had been delivered through smaller broadband suppliers and altnets, with the "big three" internet service providers (ISPs) BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media accounting for only 14% of the total value of vouchers issues.
Following the success of the scheme, a number of suppliers, notably urban FTTP provider CityFibre, have set up their own schemes to waive installation costs for business customers.
Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey hailed the “tremendous” success of the scheme.
“More than 55,000 small businesses across the UK have taken up the offer, many of which are already seeing significant boosts to their business as a result of improved broadband speeds,” said Vaizey.
“We’re transforming the UK’s digital landscape, helping cities to create new jobs and attract investment to make the UK an enviable business destination.”