Digital Cheshire

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Gigabit broadband ‘top-up’ voucher scheme launches

The investment by the partnership – consisting of Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Warrington Borough Council and Halton Borough Council – will top up the funding currently available through the government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS), which is run by Building Digital UK (BDUK).

Many rural communities across the sub-region do not have access to high-speed broadband in their areas and there are no commercial plans to improve speeds for the majority of these rural areas in the locality in the next three years.

By combining the current GBVS – which provides eligible premises with up to £1,500 per residence and £3,500 per business – with the £2.9m investment by Connecting Cheshire into topping up projects, it means that more residents and businesses in rural areas will be able to come together to bridge the costs of installing a future-proofed fibre connection.

With the top-up, it means up to £4,000 is available per eligible residence and up to £7,000 per eligible business.

Applications for the top-up vouchers opened today (5 September 2022), with funding allocated on a first come, first served basis. Communities are strongly advised to apply as soon as they can to avoid disappointment.

Rural communities, residents, and businesses that currently can only access a broadband speed of less than 30mbps will be eligible for top-up funding subsidised by Connecting Cheshire, unless the area and premises in question are part of an already committed delivery plan to install fibre.

Digital Infrastructure Minister, Matt Warman, said: “More than 1,700 hard-to-reach homes and businesses in Cheshire have been given better broadband connections as part of the government’s £210m voucher scheme, and I welcome today’s news of an extra £2.9m to provide a further boost and level up rural communities.

“The government is also rolling out better broadband through our record £5bn Project Gigabit which will make sure everyone can reap the benefits of new internet-fuelled technologies no matter where they live.”

Gigabit broadband is capable of download speeds of 1 gigabit (1,000 megabits) per second. The economic and social benefits of these high-speed internet connections are central to the partnership’s vision for the region and have been proven doubly important during the Covid-19 pandemic.

By applying for the voucher scheme and top-up and then amalgamating their vouchers, a cluster of properties within a community can come together to engage with market providers.

Having a collective sum of monies available makes it more commercially viable for a supplier to commit to the project.

Councillor Nick Mannion, chair of Cheshire East Council’s Economy and Growth Committee, said: “Connecting rural areas across the sub-region to high-speed broadband is vital to improving the rural economy and remains the priority for Connecting Cheshire. This will enable more residents and businesses to access essential online services across multiple devices, simultaneously.

“The £2.9m investment into top-up vouchers provides opportunity to our most digitally deprived areas across Cheshire and Warrington, often where the commercial market has failed to deliver service.

“We now encourage communities to come together and utilise both the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme and Connecting Cheshire top-up funding available to get your community connected.”

Residents and businesses can visit the GBVS website to find a list of suppliers in their local area.

Once they have made contact with a supplier, they do not need to do anything further and the supplier will apply for the relevant level of funding required to support each project.

The Connecting Cheshire team is available to support residents and businesses through the application process.

To find out more information on this scheme and how to take the necessary first steps, please visit the Digital Cheshire website.

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