Internet connectivity has become such an integral part of field service and as the Cloud becomes more prominent in the delivery of Field Service Management software having a fast reliable broadband connection at HQ is imperative. In the UK the government has acknowledged this and made a grant available for smaller and medium sized companies to improve their broadband speeds. Andrew Gedny, Managing Director of NextGen Access who are working with the Government on this project explains more…
With fast, reliable broadband internet access becoming increasingly essential for businesses throughout the country the UK Government created the Super Connected Cities Programme (SCCP). With funding of £150m, businesses in 22 cities around the country can take advantage of this scheme to upgrade their access to the internet. The fund aims to support economic growth and jobs across the UK by improving Small and Medium sized businesses’ (SMEs) ability to access high-grade broadband.
In part this was a response to the lack of access to fast internet connectivity in many parts of the country including, surprisingly, the Tech City area of London. That part of the city, home to many companies requiring high speed data connectivity has been, surprisingly not that well served.
Working with the 21 City Councils and, through the Mayor of London’s office, all of the London Boroughs, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) will manage the distribution of this grant funding via a voucher scheme.
BDUK, part of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, was given responsibility for defining the qualifying rules and creating the application processes. Alongside companies such as NextGenAccess and the other scheme registered telecoms suppliers, BDUK is working to promote the programme and to inform SMEs about the business benefits of enhanced broadband connectivity.
How much is the Grant and what does it pay for?
Individual companies may apply for vouchers worth up to £3,000. This money can only be used to cover the costs of the improved Broadband connection, in other words just the capital and equipment costs of installing faster internet access. It cannot be used to pay for any ongoing service rental fees. The grant recipient is responsible for the VAT element of the connection charge as well as the subsequent monthly line charges levied by the telecoms provider delivering the service.
To qualify there needs to be a genuine and real change in broadband speed: this has been defined as being at least 30Mbps on a shared line or 20Mbps if a dedicated service is being provided on a dedicated basis. The other qualifying criteria is that the new speed must be at least double the previous one.
An interesting rule is that SME’s sharing a building may pool together their grant money and in doing so can collectively obtain a better level of service than they would otherwise get on their own. The only caveat to this is that the combined pool of money cannot exceed £20,000 except under exceptional circumstances. However that amount of money is usually sufficient to provide a very fast shared service. A single company applying may be able to install a 100mbit connection but if 3, 4 or more companies applied jointly then potentially they may be able to share a 1gbit connection for the same price.
Who Can Apply for the Grant?
Applicants for the grant must be:
- a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)
- or a registered charity, social enterprise or sole trader.
In addition, an applicant must be located in one of the 22 participating cities, use a registered supplier and choose a high speed/ high grade connection.
The definition of a SME is defined as:
- Employing less than 249 people or volunteers
- Having a turnover of less than €50 (around £41m) and/or having a balance sheet of less than €43M (around £35.5M)
- Having received less than €200k in public grants in the last 3 years
- Not operating in sector which is excluded from the Scheme*
- Not having a parent company or linked enterprise which does not meet the eligibility criteria
The vouchers can be applied for until March 2015 but do not need to be used by then. More details on the full details of the eligibility criteria can be found at www.nextgenaccess.com/super-connected-cities
What does Superfast Broadband Deliver?
SME’s increasingly need high speed broadband connectivity to improve operational efficiency, remain competitive and maximise their addressable markets. As SMEs migrate additional services to the cloud, transfer and access more central data and collaborate with customers on projects, high speed, reliable business grade connectivity becomes a key business tool. The SCCP vouchers are designed to ensure that SMEs can access services that will drive the digital growth of the economy.