Prime minister David Cameron and culture secretary Maria Muller have announced a grant of £3,000 for SMEs in 10 cities across the UK to help them connect up to superfast broadband.
The broadband connection voucher scheme – a £100 million pot of money – will be extended to 12 other cities around the UK in early 2014.
The cities that are currently eligible include Belfast, Salford, Portsmouth, Cardiff, Derby, Bristol, Edinburgh, Newport, London and Manchester.
Small and medium sized businesses will be able to apply for grants of up to £3,000 each to cover the costs of installing faster and better broadband, with the aim that this will allow better services to be passed on to consumers and for companies to work with the latest internet-based technologies.
The government hopes that this will also attract new jobs and investment to the areas, making the UK the “best place in Europe to do business”.
“Up to £3,000 of broadband vouchers for small business in these cities is not only a massive boost for growth in the UK, but also has the potential to bring China to Cardiff, Brazil to Bristol and the Emirates to Edinburgh in an increased export market,” said prime minister David Cameron.
“As part of our economic plan, I want to give our small businesses every possible advantage to compete in the global race – and also the flexibility to locate or set up right across the UK. To do that we are working on a complete overhaul of the UK’s infrastructure; high speed broadband is a vital part of this. And on Small Business Saturday, what better way to support small businesses – the lifeblood of our economy – than to help kit them out for the 21st century.”
The scheme is part of the government’s wider broadband rollout, which aims to have 88 percent of the country hooked up to superfast broadband by December 2015, with an estimated 90 percent getting access by early 2016. It hopes to have 95 percent of premises connected by 2017.
However, its handling of the rollout has been heavily criticised by the Public Accounts Committee, which claimed that it has created an anti-competitive environment after BT is the only company bidding for over a billion pounds worth of contracts.