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Understanding Connection Vouchers

Image for the Ai Networks blog about Connection Vouchers

OCTOBER 2015 UPDATE: As of October 2015 the Connection Voucher Scheme has been suspended by the Government. Whilst this suspension is active, no cities will accept new connection voucher submissions. We'll update this blog post as the situation changes, though we can still give you a competitive quote for a leased line.

For businesses that are fed up with a slow, unreliable internet connection, free money from the Government towards a better connection might seem too good to be true. But here’s the thing. It’s real. The Government’s Connection Voucher scheme is part of the ‘Superfast Britain’ programme and is available to SMEs in 50 cities across the country.

What you get

The Connection Voucher scheme helps organisations get money off a new connection by giving up to £3,000 towards installation fees. That’s a lot of cash. It could, for example, quite easily pay for the installation of a next-generation dedicated fibre service. The provider of the connectivity needs to be on the scheme, so it’s best to do your homework: don’t assume your provider is eligible, or else you could be in for a nasty surprise. Ai Networks are on the list and we have a lot of experience in helping businesses through the process.

A question of time

For people reading this who are interested, take note of the time limit. It runs out soon. In fact the Connection Voucher scheme has already been extended once last April, so time is tight. If you want your free money from the Government*, my advice is get in quick and don’t make it one of those projects that gets pushed back and delayed.

Too good to be true?

It seems simple, right? But as the tiny voice in the back of your head might be telling you, there are exceptions, exclusions and eligibility criteria. Here are the main points:

  • You must be an SME with a turnover of up to €50 million. If you’re owned by a parent company, their turnover must not exceed €50 million.
  • It must be a business premises and be in one of the 50 eligible cities across the UK. Don’t worry if you’re not right in the heart of a metropolis, as sometimes it includes the surrounding area. There’s a postcode checker you can use to make it easy.
  • You must not employ more than 250 people.
  • If you've received more than €200,000 in public grants in the last 3 years you may not be eligable.

Fast love

There are a few caveats when it comes to speed, too: a new NGA connection needs to be a minimum of 20 Mbps and be capable of being upgraded to 30 Mbps. New connections that replace existing 30 Mbps (or above) NGA services must be twice as fast as that which they replace. But there are exceptions to this too. Our advice is to work with your provider – they’ll be able to help you pick a service that’s right for you and is eligible for the Connection Voucher scheme.

So now what?

  1. Check you’re in the right area with this postcode checker. Then check your business is eligible: this document does quite a good job of explaining it in full.
  2. Get a quote from a provider that’s on the scheme.
  3. Apply.

So is this an unlimited land of milk and honey? No. Is this a programme that can (and indeed has for some time) been genuinely saving businesses thousands of pounds? Yes. Our advice is to get involved sooner rather than later.
* This is not a phrase you often hear. At least, not a phrase you often hear and can believe.

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