A free satellite broadband dish is to be given to people with the slowest broadband connections “as an early Christmas present”, the government has announced.
About 300,000 homes and businesses with an internet connection slower than 2Mbps will be able to claim £350 towards the installation of a free satellite dish, connection and a year’s subscription.
Thousands of farm businesses in remote areas of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland with some of the worst internet speeds will be able to take advantage of the offer. A similar scheme already exists in Wales.
The scheme being rolled out throughout December forms part of the government’s commitment to make sure every home and business in the UK can access speeds of at least 2Mbps by the end of 2015.
Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey said: “This scheme offers immediate assistance to those homes and businesses in the most remote areas with the slowest speeds and is all part of our transformation of the UK’s digital landscape.”
Users will be responsible for paying any remaining cost of installation, choosing the features of the satellite broadband service they require and paying the monthly subscription for the service they selected, for a minimum period of 12 months.
About 90% of properties in the UK have access to superfast broadband. The government recently announced plans to give everyone the legal right to access a minimum broadband speed of 10Mbps by 2020.
The satellite offer is separate from this longer-term commitment, but will deliver an “immediate and welcome boost to broadband speeds for the hardest-to-reach places”, said the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
The Country, Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 33,000 landowners and rural businesses in England and Wales, welcomed the satellite voucher scheme, but said it was a “short-term measure”.
CLA senior rural business adviser Charles Trotman said: “It will help rural businesses and communities in the areas not covered by the broadband roll-out programme, many of which are still waiting to receive even basic broadband.
“We will work with government to ensure the rural areas most in need of this technology are able to benefit from the initiative.”
But he added: “This satellite scheme should go some way to helping close the urban-rural digital divide and unlock the potential of the countryside.
“However, it is a short-term measure and government must remain focused on its commitment to delivering the Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps.”
An online tool is available to check whether the scheme has launched in your area.