£210m rural broadband grant scheme reopens for applications

A £210m grant scheme to help improve broadband connectivity on farms and estates is set to reopen.

The third round of the government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme will open to joint applications from two or more properties from Thursday (8 April).

Strutt & Parker consultant Stuart Gray urged potential applicants to act quickly because previous rounds had proved popular and the funding pot could be used up.

To be eligible, properties must have a connection speed below 100Mbps. Applicants can receive up to £1,500/home or £3,500/business, while community collectives can accumulate significant sums towards installation costs.

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Mr Gray explained that large numbers of properties could band together to form a community fibre partnership.

One recent project where a rural estate joined forces with a local village’s community fibre partnership had enabled 77 properties to connect, he said.

Voucher scheme payments totalled £123,500 of the quoted £170,000 for the work. The estate installed some of the underground ducts itself and the savings covered the funding gap, leaving most of the households without a cost.

Mr Gray pointed out that grant assistance may also be available from local authorities and development trusts. A number of successful community fibre partnerships had received funding from multiple sources, both public and private, he said.

How the process works

  • Use the postcode checker on the government website to confirm eligibility
  • The group application requests a connection from a scheme-endorsed internet service provider (ISP) such as Openreach
  • The ISP then requests vouchers on behalf of the group
  • Any agreement may be subject to the Electronic Communications Code, which regulates the legal relationship between landowners and certain network operators