Wednesday, January 4, 2017

News: Broadband connection vouchers coming back to Sheffield city region

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A scheme to encourage small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to take-up faster digital connectivity in the Sheffield city region (SCR) is set to be launched soon.

A national Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme ran from December 2013 until October 2015 where up to £3,000 was made available to businesses to help them connect to a broadband service.

Funded via the Government, more than 40,000 SMEs across the UK benefited from the vouchers on a "first come, first served" basis - 7,377 companies in Yorkshire and Humber.

Available in 50 UK cities, Sheffield joined the scheme in April 2015 but the funds were all spent by October 2015.

Now Superfast South Yorkshire is set to launch a similar scheme with the backing of European funding.

Superfast South Yorkshire is a partnership between the authorities of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield and BT, which secured £22m to ensure 97.9% of South Yorkshire will have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017.

The "Connection and Innovation Voucher Scheme" across the Sheffield city region will provide vouchers to encourage SMEs to take-up faster digital connectivity (connection vouchers) and / or introduce enhanced ICT systems and / or process that can improve business performance through the faster digital connection (innovation vouchers). The innovation vouchers will only be available in South Yorkshire.

Vouchers will have a maximum value which will be 50% of the actual cost for the connection or innovation provided, excluding VAT.

The scheme is set to launch "early in the New Year."

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Funding has been secured from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.

A call was put out in 2015 to allocate £500,000 of ERDF money to a project to encourage a wider use of superfast broadband across SCR businesses and help them use Information and Communication Technology products and services appropriate for their business.

The previous £90m Digital Region project failed in part due to a lack of promotion and the lack of a robust and coherent sales and marketing plan, especially early in the process.

The ERDF call stated: "All existing and potential new businesses in South Yorkshire should be equipped with the knowledge and understanding of what the benefits and opportunities of using digital technology, enabled by superfast broadband, can bring and are encouraged to be creative and innovative in its adoption.

"The current investment in broadband infrastructure across Sheffield City Region will significantly contribute to GVA, the region wishes to realise the benefits and opportunities for business. This will be done by ensuring that the availability of superfast broadband is promoted, that the opportunities for digital transformation and innovation are realised, the benefits are shared and that outcomes for business growth achieved."

Superfast South Yorkshire website

Images: Superfast South Yorkshire


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