Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme cancelled

Broken Broadband

With a new year comes exciting new changes, and what more exciting way to kick-start the new year than pricing people in rural areas out of properly functioning broadband? This, at least, seems to be the feeling within the newly-elected Government. A scheme that was once in place to provide support to applicants whose home or business was unable to access a broadband service with a download speed of 2 Mbps has been cancelled.

Yes, unfortunately, the UK Better Broadband Voucher Scheme officially closed on the 31st of December 2019. It had, in fact, stopped accepting new requests for vouchers on the 29th of November, but had allowed a window of up to the end of the year for new beneficiaries to get their products installed.

What was the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme?

The Better Broadband Scheme operated by providing micro-grants to beneficiaries who qualified for it - that is, those people whose house or business could not access download speeds of at least 2 Mbps. These grants were valued at no more than £350 (incl. VAT) and were received as a reduction of the cost of upgrading their service. The new connection that customers received under the Scheme provided them with the following conditions:

  • 10 Mbps download speeds
  • 0.5 Mbps upload speeds
  • 10Gb of monthly data
  • 12-month minimum contract
  • A maximum cost of £400 (incl. VAT)

It may not seem like much, but if you’re used to not even being able to get going with your internet because of such slow speeds, it would certainly serve.

The service was provided by a number of registered suppliers, who would be able to tell you if you were eligible and provide you with whichever solution was available in your area - be it fixed wireless, satellite, 4G or as part of a community project. The supplier you chose would apply for the voucher on your behalf and have you connected within 28 days you would be connected.

To summariseIn short, the Better Broadband Scheme was a scheme to help those who struggled to get decent internet access get connected easily and affordably.

How will people in rural areas get affordable broadband now?

For now, there seems to be nothing in place to provide support for those who would have qualified for the Scheme. From the 20th of March, however, Ofcom will introduce what seems to be a measure designed to replace the Better Broadband Scheme - the broadband universal service obligation (USO).

What is the broadband universal service obligation?

The broadband USO is a set of rules imposed by Ofcom on the broadband market to ensure that homes and businesses in the UK are able to get access to “decent and affordable” internet.

What does Ofcom mean by “decent and affordable”?The government body has decided to define decent broadband as a service that provides download speeds of 10 Mbps and upload speeds of 1 Mbps - similar to those offered under the previous scheme - as well as other more technical features which we won’t bore you with. On the affordability front, consumers or businesses will only have to contribute to paying for their connection if the cost is over £3,400.

As under the previous scheme, only certain designated providers will supply USO connections and not all homes and businesses will be eligible for it. You’ll only be eligible if you can’t at present afford a package with equivalent speeds and specifications. You can make a request for a connection from the scheme’s start date (the 20th of March 2020) to a designated supplier - not to Ofcom directly.

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Which are the designated broadband USO suppliers?

Only BT and KCOM are obliged to supply broadband USO connections, so head to their websites or give them a call if you want to find out more.

When can you expect to get connected?Once you make your request for a connection, the provider will have 30 days to confirm you’re eligible under the scheme. If your connection cost works out at less than £3,400, the delivery process can start and should take a matter of days. If it doesn’t but you’d like to go ahead and front the extra cost, the provider will have to carry out a survey and give you a quote within 60 days.

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