The Superfast Worcestershire Partnership is working to bring superfast broadband connectivity to 97% of homes and businesses in Worcestershire by Summer 2021. Whilst great progress has already been made and superfast speeds are available to over 97.5% of Worcestershire premises, areas without access to superfast speeds still remain.
For those in the remaining 2.5%, there are several funding schemes available, aimed at supporting communities and businesses.
Summary of the schemes:
- Project Gigabit: New UK Gigabit Voucher Scheme launched April 2021 with a narrower eligibility criteria for rural premises with broadband speeds of less than 100 Mbps who can apply for vouchers worth up to £3,500 for each SME (inc. sole traders) and up to £1,500 per residential premises to support the cost of installing new gigabit-capable connections.
- Universal Service Obligation (USO): The UK Government introduced USO for broadband in 2020 to ensure that the UK has world-class digital connectivity and inclusion.
- Other Projects & future funding including Community Pathfinder Project with Airband, more details on potential future funding, supporting commercial infrastructure providers and mobile operators in Worcestershire
- The Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme: Rural premises with broadband speeds of less than 100 Mbps could use vouchers worth up to £3,500 for each SME (inc. sole traders) and up to £1,500 per residential premises to support the cost of installing new gigabit-capable connections. A scheme to top up the Government grants by Worcestershire County Council was launched in September 2020, meaning that up to £7,000 and £3,000 could be claimed respectively.
- The Worcestershire 5G Testbed trial: in March 2018, Worcestershire 5G Consortium began their 12 month project to build and operate 5G Testbed sites in Worcester and Malvern. The Worcestershire trials focus on 'Advanced Manufacturing' and 'Security by Design' amongst other areas and fully testing the boundaries of the emerging networks' capabilities.
- The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme: Businesses could claim up to £2,500 against the cost of connection either individually or as part of a group project. Residents could benefit from the scheme as part of a group project which also includes businesses and could claim for a voucher of up to a value of £500.
As part of the wider £5bn Project Gigabit programme the UK Government started a new rural focused £210m gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme on the 8th April 2021. This additional investment in the Voucher Scheme will continue supporting the cost of installing faster and more reliable full fibre broadband connections for small to medium sized business and the local communities around them.
In this follow-on scheme the eligibility criteria has been narrowed so that only those premises in the remotest areas are eligible, using Ofcom’s Area 3: Non-Competitive Areas (Opens in new window) criteria where Openreach is the only operator providing large-scale network.
With the increase in use of cloud-based services, streamed services, voice and video conferencing and cyber security measures that was predicted for 2020, the move to homeworking for many has made this even more important. Gigabit capable connections will allow users to increase download and upload speeds according to their home needs but more and more around working from home. This huge leap in connection speeds has benefited those already on full fibre but through this voucher scheme will widen the benefits for you and your business into the future.
Each eligible business can claim up to £3,500 against the cost of connection either individually or as part of a group project. Residents can claim a voucher worth £1,500 as part of a group project. (Group projects must have a ratio of 1 business to 10 residential premises.)
For full details about whether you are eligible for a voucher and to connect you to a full fibre broadband supplier, go to the UK Government Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme website (Opens in new window).
As of May 2021, DCMS data shows that the UK Government has allocated £159.2m of support through the voucher schemes throughout the UK. So, if you'd like to give your business and community a faster connection, don't delay!
For more information on how the process works visit the Superfast Worcestershire website and read FAQ28 (opens in a new window).
The new USO is a UK-wide measure, intended to fill the gap left by the UK Government’s existing broadband roll-out programs, to deliver broadband connections to the hardest to reach premises in the UK. Ofcom reported that as of May 2017, 1.1 million premises (4%) in the UK would qualify for the USO.
At present around 97.5% of the UK (and Worcestershire) can already order a fixed “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) connection and by the end of 2021 this is expected to reach around 98%, which means that the new USO will be primarily focused upon helping to cater for those in the final 2%; estimated to be somewhere around 300,000 to 500,000 premises nationwide in 2021.
The USO is being delivered by Ofcom (with BT and KCOM as appointed suppliers on the scheme), and customers have been able to request a USO connection since March 2020. The USO will give UK households and businesses currently receiving less than 10Mbps download and not due to receive a service from a publicly-funded roll out programme, the right to request a decent broadband connection of at least 10Mbps (download) and 1Mbps (upload) up to the installation cost of £3400. Where costs are over £3400, consumers will be required to contribute the excess costs or do some of the work themselves.
Recently, BT (the nominated supplier for Worcestershire) have written to all eligible Worcestershire premises to make them aware of the scheme and how to progress individual requests.
More information can be found at Ofcom’s Broadband USO Need to Know (opens in a new window) and on BT’s USO page (opens in a new window).
- Future Funding: Worcestershire County Council is constantly exploring opportunities to provide access to improved broadband in all parts of Worcestershire. Current investigations include opportunities through DEFRA & Local Full Fibre Networks at DCMS. Please register with Superfast Worcestershire (opens in a new window) to be kept up to date. Alternatively, “How to obtain a better service when superfast broadband isn't available to you” (opens in a new window) guide is also available describing currently available solutions.
- Community Pathfinder Project with Airband: Alongside the Superfast Worcestershire Partnership with BT, Worcestershire County Council identified additional funding for Pathfinder Community Projects in 2012/13. As a result, three communities were successful in their bids for funding from the County Council to provide access to faster Broadband in their areas; further information on Pathfinder Projects (opens in a new window).
- •Supporting Commercial operators in Worcestershire' : Worcestershire County Council continue to work with commercial operators to ensure Worcestershire is an appealing place to invest and operate.
- Working with mobile operators: Worcestershire County Council recognise the importance of mobile phone connectivity in and around the county, acknowledging that existing 2G, 3G and 4G services can be improved across the county; whether that be improving coverage or optimising the network when it is available. Worcestershire County Council and Worcestershire LEP worked with supplier AWTG to undertake a series of drive and static trials in the spring of 2017 and 2019. Having understood the outcome of these trials the Council has engaged with the four major mobile network operators EE, 02, Three and Vodafone; working with them to understand and overcome challenges locally. These conversations have delivered positive responses in the County, with optimisation taking place and new sites being investigated. All four operators continue positive engagement with us, and we welcome their ongoing support.
This scheme is now closed for new applications; however, a new scheme is due to be launched by DCMS in 2021.
Following the success of the Gigabit Voucher scheme, the UK Government announced this scheme in April 2019. As part of the Government's RGC programme, businesses and residents in some of the hardest to reach places in the UK were eligible for additional funding towards the installation costs of a gigabit-capable connection to their premises.
The key characteristics of the RGC voucher eligibility were:
• available in defined rural areas (by postcode in all parts of the UK)
• available to those with existing broadband speeds of less than 100Mbps (download)
• up to £3500 available for eligible SMEs (including self-employed / sole traders) and up to £1500 for residents and
• applications must include a minimum or 2 residential of SME premises (single connections are not eligible)
More information can be found at gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk (opens in a new window).
The Worcestershire County Council Top-up Scheme is currently on hold, following unprecedented demand.
For more information visit the Superfast Worcestershire website and read FAQ28 (opens in a new window).
Worcestershire was successful in its bid for Government funding to test and explore 5G connectivity, to revolutionise the way future business will operate both in the UK and globally.
The Worcestershire 5G Consortium has completed the country’s most comprehensive industrial 5G Testbed trial, with a team of 5G specialists and business experts pioneering the concept of ‘Industry 4.0’, aiming to revolutionary platform for local and national businesses to develop next-generation technology focused on improving the UK’s industrial productivity.
The consortium of partners includes local infrastructure providers, national network operators and research and development facilities. They are: Worcestershire County Council, 5GIC at University of Surrey, AWTG, Huawei, O2, BT, and Malvern Hills Science Park. For further information read Worcestershire's new 5G Testbed places county at forefront of technological innovation - Worcestershire LEP (opens in a new window)
Full fibre broadband connections offer the fastest and most reliable speeds available, and the government is committed to a vision of a full fibre Britain. As part of this commitment in March 2018 DCMS announced £67m Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (opens in a new window). All funding was fully committed, and the scheme closed in May 2020.
Gigabit vouchers could be used by small businesses and the local communities surrounding them to contribute to the installation cost of a gigabit capable connection. Businesses can claim up to £2,500 against the cost of connection either individually or as part of a group project. Residents could benefit from the scheme as part of a group project which also includes businesses and can claim for a voucher of up to a value of £500.
In Worcestershire, 338 vouchers, worth £677k have been secured: 230 of these were business.
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