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Government's business broadband voucher scheme 'suspended'

Tuesday, October 13th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

The government’s Connection Voucher scheme has been suspended, with all its funds close to being “fully committed”, it has been announced.

A message on the website for the business broadband scheme says: “The Connection Voucher Scheme is currently suspended.

“The funds available to the scheme are close to being fully committed and we have suspended the scheme.

“Whilst the scheme is suspended, cities will not accept applications.”

The government-run scheme allows businesses to apply for grants of up to £3,000 each to cover the costs of installing faster and better broadband.

Just last month, digital minister Ed Vaizey urged businesses yet to apply to act quickly.

The scheme was due to close in March 2016, but it was anticipated that the £40m made available by the government for the grants could be exhausted sooner.

40,000 businesses in the 50 cities across the UK participating in the scheme had had grants approved by September, with more than 1,000 applications being made every week.

Last month the government reminded businesses that vouchers were issued on a first-come, first-served basis and funds are not ring-fenced for individual cities.

Speaking at the time, Mr Vaizey said: “Our offer to small businesses has been a tremendous success and is proving incredibly popular.

'Before it's too late'

“More than 40,000 UK businesses have already taken up our offer, which is aimed at boosting both their broadband speeds as well as their bottom line.

“Businesses need to act now to ensure they don’t miss out on this fantastic offer and I’m urging all eligible businesses to apply now before it’s too late.”

Businesses in London had been issued the most vouchers as of 25 August (11,664) followed by the north-west with 6,344 and Yorkshire and Humberside with 5,734.

In its early days, the Connection Voucher scheme faced criticism, as only £10.5m of the £150m fund had been awarded, with just 3,000 businesses receiving vouchers.

But in December 2014, Cable.co.uk reported that the project, which was due to close in the spring, had received a £40m cash boost so it could run for another year.

More urban locations were added to the scheme, which was previously only available to businesses in 22 UK cities.

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