In delivering the government’s Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme, Exeter was set a target of getting 40 businesses interested, yet the City Council managed nearly four times that amount, with more than 150 taking advantage of the offer.
The UK-wide initiative - which has now allocated all of the £40m available funding since April 2015 - gave businesses the chance to apply for grants of up to £3,000 each to cover the costs of installing faster and better broadband. Hugely successful, the scheme has helped more than 55,000 small and medium businesses employing up to 1 million people nationwide, including architects, estate agents, mechanics, events coordinators, cafes, graphic designers and caterers.
In Exeter (which was given ‘approved city’ status in April ) the take up was greater than in some larger cities.
Cllr Rosie Denham, Lead Councillor for Economy and Culture, said: “The scheme has been a tremendous success in Exeter. Many of the 150 small businesses that have taken up the offer are already seeing significant boosts to their business as a result of improved broadband speeds.
Businesses were able to use their voucher to get a broadband connection from a wide variety of suppliers. Businesses benefitting from a broadband connection delivered by the scheme are reporting, on average, a £1,300* per year increase in profits, with a new job being created for every four new connections. This means that for every £1 the UK Government invested in the scheme, more than £5 will be returned to the UK economy.
In Topsham, the voucher allowed Route 2 cafe and apartments to change suppliers and provide its customers with a faster Wi-Fi connection.
Owner Martin McGahey said: “With the much faster speeds we are getting using the new fibre connection, our customers are getting what they expect in this modern world.”
Nigel Wilkinson, Director of WNW Digital, agreed saying: “As a Digital Marketing Agency based in the city centre it is essential for us to have high speed broadband in order for us to support our clients effectively and create jobs. The Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme was a huge assistance to us in installing fibre optic broadband and giving us to capacity to grow the team, with new jobs created in 2015 and more planned for 2016.”
And Naomi Lavis, Office Manager at Chalk and Ward Advertising, said: “We work in a fast-paced industry where customer service is key to our success, and so it is vital that we are able to respond quickly and professionally to any enquiry. Having faster Broadband connection thanks to the voucher scheme via Exeter City Council has enabled our business to maintain our high standards of delivering excellent results for our clients.”
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “We’re transforming the UK’s digital landscape, helping cities like Exeter to create new jobs and attract investment to make the UK an enviable business destination.”
Benefits small businesses are seeing as a result of a faster connection include:
â Growing and accessing new markets through better communication with customer and suppliers.
â Increased security through fast secure backup of data.
â Increased productivity and improving customer service through faster upload and download speeds.
â Increased efficiency and employee effectiveness.
Whilst the scheme has now closed, its success has stimulated the market, with some suppliers now offering similar support through offers of free installation and equipment. This means that those eligible businesses who didn’t apply for one of the Broadband Connection vouchers still have time to apply for a free or discounted broadband boost for their business.
Further information on the benefits of the scheme is available at www.connectionvouchers.co.uk
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