Small firms urged to apply for grants to boost broadband connections

COMPANIES looking for support to upgrade their broadband speeds have been urged to act quickly as funding for cash vouchers to help meet the costs is expected to run out by October.

Nearly 5,000 small businesses across Yorkshire have secured vouchers worth more than £8 million from the Government’s Superconnected Cities scheme, which received its latest £40 million top up in April this year.

The scheme, which provides ‘connection voucher’ grants of up to £3,000 to eligible businesses for installing high speed broadband, is part of a nationwide programme to boost high-speed internet connectivity among small and medium-sized businesses which was launched in 2014.

Superfast programme manager Natalie Ward has urged local businesses to apply for vouchers, which have so far been issued to 3,630 firms in West Yorkshire and Craven.

She said: “Being equipped with the fastest possible web connection is crucial to business growth, and it is fantastic that nearly 5,000 Yorkshire firms have taken this up to date.

“This scheme has a finite pot of funding and since April just about half of it has been allocated to applicants across the UK. It is great news that Yorkshire businesses are claiming more than any region outside the capital, but for those who haven’t already received a voucher the time is slipping away.”

Mark Durham, project manager for the connection voucher scheme in West Yorkshire, added: “The online application process only takes five to ten minutes, the vouchers don’t have to be match funded and so almost any firm that wants to maximize their use of the web should apply.

“The funding is being spent at a rate of more than £1million per week and we would hate to see businesses face unnecessary connection and hardware charges of thousands of pounds after the pot has all been allocated. We are urging business owners and directors to stake their claim on the funds as soon as possible.”

Businesses can check their eligibility and make an online application at .

Meanwhile, the BT division responsible for installing and maintaining the optical fibre necessary to provide faster download speeds has defended itself from criticism over the speed of the roll-out, with some rural communities saying they have no coverage at all. .

BT Openreach chief executive Joe Garner said 90 per cent of the UK had fibre-based high speed broadband and the roll-out was proceeding at ‘ a tremendous rate’.

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