Scots small firms set to get broadband funds boost

SMALL businesses in four Scottish cities will be able to apply for a share of £40 million of UK Government cash to boost their broadband connection, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will announce.

Mr Alexander will reveal that the broadband vouchers programme is being extended to small firms in Glasgow, Inverness, Stirling and Dundee. Picture: TSPL

Danny Alexander will use a major devolution summit in Glasgow to reveal that the broadband connection vouchers programme is being extended to small firms in Glasgow, Inverness, Stirling and Dundee.

Businesses in Edinburgh, Perth and Aberdeen, as well as in 19 other UK cities, already benefit from the scheme providing grants to help those needing to upgrade their broadband.

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As well as small businesses, social enterprises, charities and sole traders can apply for grants of up to £3,000 to cover the cost of installing a faster and better connection.

Mr Alexander will announce the move when he speaks at the Core Cities event, telling delegates that “for many businesses across Scotland and the UK, high speed broadband isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity”.

He will say: “Businesses in Glasgow, Inverness, Stirling and Dundee will benefit from faster connections, downloads and uploads, meaning that they can communicate better with customers across the world.

“It is extremely frustrating that some small businesses in cities can’t get the broadband connection they need. These vouchers will help them to change that.

“Having grown up on a remote island, I know what a huge difference being connected makes to our rural communities.”

The Highlands MP will also reveal that the UK Government’s roll-out of super-fast broadband has now reached 200,000 homes and premises in Scotland.

The programme is delivering internet speeds greater than 24 Mbps to properties not already covered by existing commercial networks.

The Government said it is on track to take super-fast access to 95% of the UK by 2017. The current figure is around 80%.

Mr Alexander will say: “For the first time, people in these areas will be able to sign up for super-fast broadband, and experience the benefits of being able to stay in touch, do deals and communicate more effectively than ever before across Scotland.

“It is this approach - devolution, but backed up by targeted Government activity and Government funding - which we believe offers cities the best of both worlds.

“Where the economic power of the UK can have a positive effect, then we will deploy it. And where we can give greater autonomy to our cities and regions, then we will do so.”

The Government’s nationwide roll-out of superfast broadband has now reached more than two million homes and businesses in the UK, according to figures published today.

The scheme is delivering internet speeds greater than 24 Mbps to those properties not covered by existing commercial networks and is on track to take superfast access to 95% of the UK by 2017, said the Departure of Culture, Media and Sport.

The UK already leads the EU “big five” nations when it comes to superfast access and take-up and the programme will ensure it stays ahead, a spokesman said.

Government recognises the importance of a fast internet connection to individuals and businesses alike, and its £1.7 billion investment in the rollout is a key part of its long term economic plan, he added.

About 80% of the UK already has access to superfast speeds, and the rollout is currently reaching an additional 40,000 homes and businesses every week.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Today there are two million more UK homes and businesses with access to superfast broadband than there were two years ago as a result of this ambitious project.

“This is a tremendous result that is already making a huge difference to millions of people. We want everyone in the UK to be able to enjoy the benefits of superfast broadband, that’s why we’ve begun work on reaching the last 5% of communities not covered by existing plans.”

Faster broadband is a catalyst for economic growth, and it is estimated that the rollout will result in the creation of 56,000 more jobs in the UK by 2024.

Superfast broadband will be pivotal in driving profits for local businesses, and rural economies are set to benefit by around £9 million every day thanks to the work being done now.

Project partners BT are now rolling out the fibre-optic cable at maximum speed, with progress to date in each geographical area of the UK.