Connected Voucher Scheme: Free grant funding to boost business connectivity

Published: 13 Sep 2014 10:00

BUSINESSES in Edinburgh and Fife are being urged to take advantage of a £100 million UK Government initiative to improve their broadband and internet services.

They’re invited to apply to the Connected Voucher Scheme, which provides SMEs, not-for-profit organisations and charities up to £3k in grant funding to improve their connectivity.

Despite being launched in December, the free funding scheme has seen a surprisingly low uptake, according to Edinburgh-based communications specialist Commsworld, which is an authorised provider of the scheme, with only 4 per cent of eligible businesses having benefited so far.

Commsworld commercial director Andy Arkle is appealing to businesses to take advantage of the lethargy surrounding the scheme, citing the benefits of faster broadband as being obvious, tangible and immediate.

He said: “We provide businesses with better and faster connectivity on a daily basis so we see first-hand the huge difference it can make.

“The major barrier for smaller businesses and not-for-profit organisations is normally their budgetary concerns, therefore, when the government is offering free cash to remove this barrier it seems absurd that there has only been a 4 per cent uptake in the 22 cities so far.

“This is a gilt-edged opportunity for any business that wants to improve its performance, a vital requirement as the Scottish economy continues to move out of recession at pace.

“But, in particular, this is great news for businesses in Edinburgh, Perth and Aberdeen as they can get in while the money is still there and profit from the relaxed attitude of firms in other cities.”

The Connected Voucher Scheme has been designed to improve broadband and mobile infrastructure throughout the UK after Edinburgh City Council partnered with the government for the pilot scheme. Edinburgh was then included in the 10-city official launch in 2013.

The roll out has continued with another 12 cities, including Aberdeen and Perth, being added earlier this year. The scheme is expected to be extended to all major cities in the UK within the next 12 months.

However, the Financial Times recently reported that the UK government has seen just a 4 per cent uptake of the scheme, amounting to just £3.5 million.

Arkle added: “Andy continued: “There are numerous benefits of having faster and more robust connectivity and they are realised almost immediately.

“On the commercial side a business can increase profits by attracting and keeping more customers, improve customers experience by enabling a quicker and more consistent interaction and offer better means for collaboration through video calls and cloud based software and sharing.

“The operational benefits are also huge as it can increase efficiency, future proof the business by keeping it in line with digital enhancements and it can also reduce the cost of software and hardware by using online applications.

“If you can gain these benefits using someone else’s money, surely it’s a no brainer?”

Speaking at the scheme’s launch, councillor Frank Ross, convener of the Economy Committee, said: “This funding means that all small to medium sized businesses in the city who don’t already have a fast connection should now be able sign up with their preferred supplier free.

“We have worked hard to secure this opportunity for local businesses and I would strongly recommend those without a fast connection apply for a voucher as high grade broadband is more reliable, faster and it will make your business more efficient and competitive.”

Connected Voucher Scheme eligibility

• Businesses must gain one quote from an authorised provider list

• The cost must be between £200 and £3,000

• The improvements must be for a business premises and you must sign up to a 12-month contract.

• Full details are available on the Edinburgh Council, Invest in Perth and Aberdeen Invest websites.

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