In a press release issued in the middle of last week, Bristol City Council announced that Bristol’s £5 mn. fund to provide better business broadband is set to move beyond borders the Connection Vouchers scheme is expanded.
The change to the scheme means that around 2,300 small and medium-sized businesses (including registered charities, social enterprises or sole traders) located within five miles of Bristol City Council’s administrative boundaries will be eligible to apply for vouchers worth up to £3,000 each to improve their internet connection. The expansion opens up opportunities for businesses in neighbouring local authority areas of North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset; this will mean businesses based in, for example, Portishead, Keynsham, Kingswood, Winterbourne and Filton will become eligible for the scheme.
The scheme, which is backed by funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, has been running within Bristol’s since May this year.
Cllr Mark Bradshaw, Bristol’s Assistant Mayor for Place including Digital Infrastructure, said: “The scheme has been well received in Bristol and we’re extremely pleased to be expanding it across traditional borders having sought permission from the Government to do so.
“It’s widely recognised that our local economy operates as part of a larger city region, with a great deal [sic] of businesses, charities and local attractions which contribute to our economic success. It always seemed a little unfair to limit this great offer based on an administrative boundary, so I’m delighted that we’ve now been given permission to expand.
“The connection vouchers offer big benefits but they are being issued on a first-come, first-served basis, so I’d encourage anyone who’s eligible to get online and apply as soon as possible. We particularly want to encourage applications from SME and start-up businesses, including those sharing workspaces.”
The vouchers are part of Superconnected Cities, a government scheme to provide high-speed business internet connectivity in 22 UK cities. Bristol was one of the successful bidders for the £150 mn. funding pot and has until February 2015 to allocate nearly £5 mn. of vouchers to local businesses. The vouchers cover the capital cost of improving connections, such as buying new hardware or upgrading cabling connections to properties, but cannot be used for revenue costs like monthly line rental, subscription fees or VAT.
Applications can be made online at www.connectionvouchers.co.uk/bristol, where additional advice about the scheme is also available.