The Hampshire County Council (HCC) appears to have proposed a new scheme, which will help to improve broadband connectivity in the hardest to reach rural areas by committing £1m to “top up” funding under the Government’s rural voucher scheme (c.2-3% of premises are still without “superfast” speeds of 24Mbps+).
At present the Government’s £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme can, among other things, provide vouchers worth up to £3,500 for small businesses and up to £1,500 for residents to help those in poorly connected areas to access an ultrafast or gigabit-capable broadband ISP connection.
However a recent council meeting suggests that local homes in Hampshire may soon see the value of such vouchers effectively double via a £1,500 “top up” per property (i.e. a total of up to £3,000 per home). In theory the level of funding available could help 700 additional homes to access ultrafast broadband than might have otherwise been possible.
Rural Broadband (Council Document)
The County Council has been an active supporter of the roll out of broadband across the County and has approved significant funding to support the overall roll out programme. As the main programme starts to wind down focus has turned to providing broadband in the more rural and harder to reach communities.
The Government is operating a voucher scheme that provides residents with up to £1,500 towards the cost of installing broadband infrastructure to their premises and the proposal is that the County Council provides funding to allow a further top up to this amount up to £1,500 per property.
Under the first contract with BT, the County Council is entitled to receive a gainshare if sign up to broadband exceeds a threshold level. Some of this funding has already been re-invested into the second contract of works but current predictions are that we will receive at least a further £2.5m over the next three years and the proposal is to use £1.0m of this to provide the top up voucher scheme.
It is therefore recommended that £1.0m is added to the Policy and Resources Capital Programme. If all applications were for the full value then this would provide infrastructure to nearly 700 additional homes, but it is expected that many more than this will be accommodated under the scheme.
The additional funding will of course help the economic case for deploying Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) infrastructure into some of the most challenging to reach rural communities, where the per premises build costs can easily reach several thousand pounds.
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