From today (Saturday 7 December), small businesses in Belfast will be able to benefit from a £100m pot of money to connect them to better quality, high speed broadband.
Alongside Belfast, 9 other cities across the UK are eligible as of today: Salford, Portsmouth, Cardiff, Derby, Bristol, Edinburgh, Newport, London and Manchester.
The broadband connection voucher scheme will then be extended to 12 other cities around the UK in early 2014.
The funding comes from the £150 million “Super Connected Cities” programme and will help deliver the government’s ambition to make the UK the best place in Europe to do business.
Businesses can apply for grants of up to £3,000 each to cover the costs of installing faster and better broadband, allowing them to offer customers faster service and increased reliability. This will benefit small and medium enterprise businesses (SMEs), and help Belfast attract new jobs and investment.
Reliable connectivity not only gives customers confidence, but will help businesses make efficiencies such as cutting hours of travel time with instantaneous Skype meetings.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers said:
This is a great opportunity for Belfast businesses to improve their broadband connection and benefit from all the advantages it brings in the global market place. Northern Ireland was the first region in Europe to have 100% access to broadband and this initiative will help ensure SMEs across the city can utilise it to the maximum extent possible.
I strongly urge businesses to make the most of this offer which will save them thousands of pounds, help generate thousands more, and ensure they are properly equipped to compete in today’s digital age.
The government will now work closely with all the cities as they roll out the scheme and monitor their progress closely, with a view to extending its benefits as widely as possible.
All the information businesses need to apply can be found on the connection vouchers website.
The scheme is part of the government’s wider “Superfast Britain” programme of work which is transforming the UK’s communication infrastructure. Around 88% of the country will have access to superfast broadband by December 2015, with an estimated 90% getting superfast coverage by early 2016.
An extra £250 million of investment means 95% of premises will be reached by 2017 and the government is now exploring with industry how to expand coverage further, using more innovative fixed, wireless and mobile broadband solutions, to reach at least 99% of premises in the UK by 2018.