“Not spots” – where connections can be as slow as 1Mbps (or even less) – are prevalent even in our largest cities. Yes, this also includes London, but there is one council aiming to bring the needed, decent broadband all modern businesses need to thrive.
Westminster City Council has recently secured £2.8m from the European Regional Development Fund to boost a project to enable businesses within Westminster and the West End Partnership area to get access to gigabit capable fibre broadband connections at a reduced cost.
It means businesses in the area can receive up to £2,000 towards the capital cost of connections via the Connect Westminster Scheme. And it’s open to all SMEs, registered charities, social enterprises, and sole traders via an easy to redeem voucher scheme open until 2019.
Westminster have been keen to outline some of the benefits of ultrafast connections. It states how business can “improve customers’ experience with quicker, communication” and enjoy “faster file-sharing thanks to higher upload and download speeds”. It also adds how “software and hardware costs can be reduced by helping firms switch to online data storage solutions”. These scratch the surface of what’s possible with decent broadband.
Partnerships are key when building broadband infrastructure and extending the benefits to businesses. There’s an obvious substantial financial commitment on the broadband provider to lay fibre and install it to homes and businesses, however there’s also a substantial amount of work that goes on behind the scenes in terms of planning and gaining permission from relevant stakeholders including building owners and councils.
Westminster council are effectively covering both bases with this unique initiative. In applying and receiving the EU grant it is lessening the substantial cost of making ultrafast broadband available to the 47,000 business in Westminster. Just as important is the message it sends out though – that it is working in partnership with business and broadband providers to ensure it is creating the very best foundation for local enterprises to succeed.
The funds are there for similar projects – it just needs local councils and business groups to take the initiative and apply. Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is behind much of the initiatives.
At least until 2019 (when the UK is scheduled to leave the EU) it is the first point of contact in accessing the European Development Fund. However, there is also a separate UK-specific £200m “local full fibre networks programme” fund also accessible through BDUK.
The really exciting element of this is that it is specifically geared towards supplying not only decent broadband, but “full fibre” – that is gigabit enabled cable all the way to the business premises. It completely bypasses much of the legacy copper-based connections businesses are struggling with today. It’s a long-term vision which sets companies up for the future.
This is yet another manifestation of the partnership model that’s needed to build out full fibre networks. The onus needs to be on broadband providers, local councils, and business leaders to come together to make it happen.
If your business and others around you are struggling with legacy connections and there seems to be no viable alternative then there is something you can potentially do about it. Ask around, put pressure on your local council and see what’s possible via BDUK. Also see: Best broadband provider
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