Better broadband voucher offer for city firms

By on 14/01/2014 in Cllr McKay, News

Plans to extend a scheme to support SMEs across Birmingham in accessing faster broadband connections by providing eligible businesses with grants to support connection costs are due before the city council's Cabinet on January 20.

Thanks to a £2.29million European Regional Development Fund grant, a further 630 firms will be able to take advantage of the Birmingham Connectivity Voucher Scheme – launched initially for 2,170 businesses last year.

Under the scheme, led by the city council's Digital Birmingham team, businesses can apply for up to the first £3,000 of the connection cost for a high speed internet connection.

The first wave of the scheme, funded by £6.75million from the Government's Urban Broadband Fund, was announced in November 2013.

It is hoped the support on offer will enable more Birmingham SMEs to be fully competitive in a rapidly changing technological marketplace, while encouraging smaller and innovative telecoms organisations to begin delivering services in the city, ultimately driving down prices.

Cllr James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart city, said: “We want to do everything within our powers to ensure businesses in Birmingham can access the very best connectivity options that will be critical in helping to deliver innovative applications and economic growth.

“In addition to the Birmingham Connectivity Voucher Scheme, we will also be delivering a complementary programme of demand stimulation and business support events designed to maximise the uptake of the scheme and to educate businesses about the benefits of adopting digital connectivity and technologies.

“Birmingham was often referred to as the city of a thousand trades, and we have digital firms that are doing tremendous work at the moment - with the right support from schemes such as this, we will realise Birmingham's potential as  the city of a thousand digital trades.

“I would urge any firms struggling to access high speed broadband to engage with us because we are able to offer help through this excellent support package.”

Full details of the voucher scheme, business support and how to apply for vouchers will be made available in the coming months, through a series of events, including taster sessions and workshops on key issues such as global trading, business efficiency and digital marketing.

Norman Price, Deputy Chair of the West Midlands ERDF Local Management Committee said: “Access to Next Generation Broadband services is one of the key areas of the UK Government's growth strategy. Although Birmingham is generally well served with high speed connectivity, many businesses are not yet taking advantage of that accessibility and the opportunities that it can bring.

“This project aims to tackle this issue by explaining to businesses the benefits that a next generation broadband connection can deliver and the launch of a connectivity voucher scheme where micro-grants will be available to businesses to support connectivity costs to these high speed services. By the end of the project, ERDF funds will have enabled a further 1,200 businesses to benefit from higher speed connectivity and I am delighted that we can support the roll out of this vital business tool.”

ENDS

For more media information please contact Kris Kowalewski on 0121 303 3621

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