Rural broadband subsidy scheme to close this month

Rural broadband subsidy scheme to close this month

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A government scheme to offer grants to rural homes that are currently unable to access decent broadband is set to close at for new applicants at the end of this month, it has been confirmed.

The Rural Broadband Subsidy Scheme, run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), will no longer accept new requests for vouchers after November 29th, with the final funding expected to be paid out and work completed by early next year, reports.

After this time, much of the efforts to bring high-speed connectivity to poorly-served rural areas will move to other schemes, including the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme and the forthcoming Universal Service Obligation (USO).

The USO in particular is expected to be a key focus as the government tries to eliminate the remaining 'not-spots' for broadband connectivity in rural areas. This will go live in March 2020 and allow any home or business with download speeds below 10Mbps to request an upgrade.

Therefore, the ending of the Rural Broadband Subsidy Scheme does not come as a surprise. Indeed, the programme was originally supposed to come to a conclusion in 2017, before being extended until 2018 and then getting a further 12-month addition to take it into 2019. 

Initially set up in 2015, the scheme had the goal of bringing decent broadband to around 300,000 rural properties that could not access speeds faster than 2Mbps and were also expected to miss out on other superfast broadband rollouts.

A wide variety of network providers were able to take advantage of the scheme, using technologies including fibre-to-the-premises, fixed wireless and satellite services.

Now, however, with more alternatives available and the pot of money allocated to the scheme almost exhausted, it seems the government has determined the time is right to bring the initiative to a close.

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