Shock closure of popular broadband grant fund

Alex Hodgson, business development manager at Sheffield telecoms company One2Call
Alex Hodgson, business development manager at Sheffield telecoms company One2Call
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A grant scheme that gave firms up to £3,000 to install superfast broadband has been abruptly shut down.

Telecoms companies across South Yorkshire were sent a surprise letter saying the connection voucher scheme ‘has been suspended with immediate effect’.

The funding, launched in April, was expected to last until November.

Alex Hodgson of One2Call in Sheffield said they were told on Friday some £4m was left in the pot.

But an email arrived on Tuesday from Broadband Delivery UK, part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), stating: ‘funds were close to being fully committed and it has now become necessary to suspend the scheme’.

Some 586 firms in South Yorkshire received £887,000 to upgrade their broadband connections.

One2Call handled vouchers worth more than £125,000.

Alex Hodgson, business development manager, said some customers would be left in limbo.

“It’s the suddenness which will cause us issues, and we’re going to have a look this morning at how many customers will be affected.

“Even a week’s notice would have given us time to wrap up all the loose ends, but just suddenly ending the scheme like this will leave some customers in limbo.

“The scheme administrators have been very open about the fact that this is a finite funding stream, and have continually given us updates on when they expected the funds to run out, based on the rate of consumption.

“However, we received an update on Friday saying there was still £4m left.”

A DCMS spokesman said the scheme had been suspended, “pending confirmation the remaining funds have now been allocated.”

He added: “The broadband connection voucher scheme has been open to SMEs in 50 cities and we are delighted that tens of thousands of businesses have received a voucher, giving them access to an affordable superfast broadband connection. We have now suspended the scheme pending confirmation the remaining funds have now been allocated.”