The government has unveiled a £67m scheme to help small UK businesses and local community groups fund faster broadband connections.
The nationwide Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS) will provide funding for full fibre broadband worth up to £3,000 for a small- or medium-sized business or £500 for homes.
Full fibre connections are faster, more reliable and cheaper to operate than traditional copper lines and they can support speeds beyond a gigabit (1bn bits/second) up to a petabit (1 quadrillion bits/second).
Currently only 3% of UK premises have access to a full fibre connection but the government has set a target of reaching 10m homes and businesses by 2022.
The vouchers can only be used to support the eligible connection costs through broadband suppliers.
Where suppliers are able to provide qualifying connections to single businesses, vouchers will be made available to cover up to £3,000 of eligible costs.
Rural residents face additional restrictions on use.
The only way residents can benefit from the voucher scheme is as part of a local community group scheme, which must also include small businesses.
Residents and businesses taking part in a group scheme can work together to pool the value of their vouchers. But the total value of vouchers used by businesses must always be greater than the value of vouchers taken by residents.
Businesses and local community groups interested in requesting a voucher should visit the government’s website which includes instructions on how to register.
The Country Land and Business Association which has been pressing for a voucher scheme to be launched welcomed the government’s move as “really good news.”
Rural adviser Libby Batemen said: “This is really good news for rural areas as it means that more remote properties will be able to collaborate to develop fibre networks within their communities.”
“We set out the benefits of a voucher scheme in a document to the government last year and it is great to see that come to fruition.”
She explained that a voucher scheme is the quickest way to get the funding out to the businesses themselves.
Other forms of funding could be seen as market distorting and therefore subject to months of reviews before getting the green light.