Property owners in more remote parts of rural Staffordshire without superfast broadband can now get connected thanks to a £1million county council investment to boost a Government scheme.
The investment, through a county council-led partnership, will mean residents and small businesses can apply for more funding from the Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.
Currently the scheme provides funding of up to £1,500 to eligible rural residential properties and £3,500 to eligible rural small and medium-sized business properties to enable them to get connected directly to fibre broadband.
Thanks to the additional funding announced today this will increase by £2,000 per property – meaning businesses can apply for £5,500 and residents £3,500.
The additional funding has come from the county council’s Superfast Staffordshire broadband improvement programme.
Gigabit-capable broadband (also known as ultrafast broadband) provides speeds of up to 1000Mbps or 1Gbps. It means residents and businesses will be getting the latest technology, delivered straight to their homes. They will then be able to choose an internet package from a provider to suit their needs and budget.
To qualify for the scheme, residents and businesses must live in a rural area, be unable to get broadband speeds of 100Mbps or more, not be in an existing government-funded plan for a broadband upgrade and apply as a group of two or more premises.
Whilst the original Superfast Staffordshire programme, combined with commercial roll-out, has enabled 96 per cent of county properties to connect to superfast broadband, four per cent currently miss out. Now they are being urged to find out more about the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme and Staffordshire Top-up.
All funding needs to be allocated by March 2021 with connection taking place in a 12-month period after that. Funding will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
The county council has previously worked with community groups by providing match-funding for fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections. Nine groups have now been connected through the Community Fibre Broadband Partnership.
Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member responsible for Superfast Staffordshire Julia Jessel said: “Our Superfast Staffordshire programme has been a huge success and together with commercial roll-out has enabled 96 per cent of county properties to connect to superfast broadband.
“We have always set out our commitment to finding solutions for the final four per cent, often in the most remote rural locations. Fast broadband connections have for some time been an essential service for residents and business – improving opportunities, connectivity and efficiencies. Getting through the Covd-19 period has demonstrated this more than any other time. People should not be left behind because of where they live or work.
“That is why we want more community groups to come forward now. The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme and Staffordshire Top-up will make a real difference – but it is critical they come forward and act now. This scheme is time-limited and funding will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Our team will be more than happy to help to get the ball rolling.”
Digital Infrastructure Minister, Matt Warman said: “The value of access to fast and reliable broadband has never been clearer, so I’m delighted this has been recognised in Staffordshire through extra funding for our voucher scheme.
“To level up the nation we’ve made it a priority to connect even the most remote villages to gigabit-capable broadband. If you’re a rural home or business owner in Staffordshire suffering with sluggish speeds, I urge you to visit our dedicated website to check if you qualify for an upgrade.”
Residents and businesses can visit the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme website at https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk to find a list of suppliers in their local area. Once they have made contact with a supplier, they will not need to do anything further and the supplier will apply for the relevant level of funding required to support each project.
People can find out more about Superfast Staffordshire at www.superfaststaffordshire.co.uk