SME business owners in 22 SuperConnected Cities have been reminded by government they have less than half a year to apply for grants worth thousands of pounds that can help them set up superfast broadband.
Through the scheme, which is due to end in March 2015, SMEs can receive up to £3,000 in funding. It is open to companies with fewer than 250 staff and a turnover of less than £42.4 million a year.
The SuperConnected Cities initiative was launched in November 2012 when Chancellor George Osborne pledged to spend £100 million on improving broadband in 10 UK cities. He went on to announce a further £50 million in funding in May 2012.
However, only £7.5 million of vouchers have been awarded, according to a report in the Financial Times. It’s not known what will happen to any surplus cash after the March 2015 deadline arrives.
Digital minister Ed Vaizey told the FT that only 6,000 businesses had applied for grants so far.
Business minister Matthew Hancock said: "In today’s economy, not being online is simply not an option and nearly every small firm I meet says that a fast, reliable broadband connection is vital for growth. So I urge our small businesses to make the most of this opportunity and apply for broadband vouchers.
"Making sure that all our businesses can access the resources they need to grow is grow is an important part of our long-term economic plan, and we are determined to make Britain the best place in the world to start and grow a business."
Mark Collins, director of strategy and public affairs at CityFibre, welcomed the government’s efforts to make it easier to apply for the vouchers.
“The voucher scheme is a powerful mechanism that addresses an undeniable need for better connectivity from the businesses at the backbone of our economy,” said Collins.
“As an infrastructure partner of this scheme and with our local internet service provider partners offering game-changing services over our gigabit fibre networks, we would urge businesses to take advantage of the voucher funding and upgrade their connectivity today," he added.
The vouchers are available to businesses located in Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton and Hove, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Derry/Londonderry, Edinburgh, Leeds and Bradford, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Newport, Nottingham, Oxford, Perth, Portsmouth, Salford, and York.