Broadband Voucher Scheme for local businesses

From Dundee City Council :
 
Dundee City Council is pleased to announce that businesses in Dundee and Angus will now be able to apply for grants of up to £3,000 each to boost their broadband, as announced in the recent budget.
This comes as part of the UK Government’s broadband connection voucher scheme, which is to be extended for a further year. Each voucher covers up to £3,000 of installation costs but businesses can also apply as a group to connect bigger or more complicated premises. Once installed, businesses pay the line rental and VAT.
More than 25,000 vouchers have already been issued to businesses in other cities around the UK. The scheme, which helps SMEs get connected to superfast broadband has seen a huge surge in demand in recent months. The Government has made £40m available in 2015/16 for the scheme, and the vouchers are being issued on a “first come, first served” basis. Funds have not been ring fenced for individual cities, and the Government is encouraging all eligible businesses to apply before the available funds are exhausted.
From 1st April this year, small businesses in an additional 28 cities including Dundee and Angus, are eligible to apply.
The benefits to businesses of improved broadband connections include:
 
• Increasing profits by offering better services to more satisfied customers.
• Improving customers’ experience with quicker communication and faster file-sharing thanks to higher upload and download speeds, especially for large files.
• Reducing software and hardware costs by helping businesses switch to online data storage solutions.
• Enhancing the way businesses communicate and collaborate through online video conference and cloud-based information sharing.
 
Applying for a broadband grant is easy – after 1 April 2015 all Dundee and Angus businesses have to do is enter their postcode at www.connectionvouchers.co.uk to check eligibility, choose a supplier and fill in an application form or pick an off the shelf deal with no forms to fill in. Charities, not for profit organisations and commercial landlords can also apply.
A free information event will be held on 14th September from 11am-12.30pm within Committee Room 1, City Chambers, City Square, Dundee, DD1 3BY.  There will be presentations and Q&A session from the scheme administrator with local suppliers. Please come along, you can register here.

Progress with superfast broadband coverage for part of the West End

In August, I highlighted that superfast fibre broadband coverage should finally reach the most westerly part of the West End Ward which is served – for both telephone and broadband – by the Invergowrie Exchange, which also serves Invergowrie itself and parts of the Carse of Gowrie.
 
This will benefit constituents in the areas around Clovis Duveau Drive, Millbay Gardens, Millbay Terrace and Clayhills Grove, for example.
 
I am pleased to say that Digital Scotland has now advised me that :
 
“Confirmation that some premises served by the Invergowrie exchange can now order service.   To check coverage for any specific address, use our interactive map www.digitalscotland.org/whereandwhen.     This information is updated on a weekly basis.”

Good news ahead for superfast broadband coverage for part of the West End

I have welcomed news that superfast fibre broadband coverage should finally reach the most westerly part of the West End Ward which is served – for both telephone and broadband – by the Invergowrie Exchange, which also serves Invergowrie itself and parts of the Carse of Gowrie.
 
Last year, constituents in the areas around Clovis Duveau Drive, Millbay Gardens, Millbay Terrace and Clayhills Grove contacted me to complain that this exchange was not yet providing superfast fibre broadband and I therefore contacted the government’s Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband rollout team about this.    
 
I was advised that the Invergowrie area was eligible for a state aid intervention as part of the superfast broadband programme.  However, at that time no announcement had been made regarding what areas would benefit and when.
 
I recently asked for an update from Digital Scotland as to when the Invergowrie exchange would be upgraded to superfast fibre broadband and have been advised by their Senior Stakeholder Manager :
 
“Work is still on-going from the Invergowrie exchange, but I would expect fibre deployment to be available by October 2014.”
 

I am pleased to learn that this part of the West End will enjoy superfast fibre broadband from later this year as many constituents in the area report variable broadband quality at times and the superfast version will be hugely better.

I am on Wave 102 News about this update this morning and you can listen to this by clicking ‘play’ below:

Better broadband for the West End

The most western part of the West End Ward (area around Clovis Duveau Drive, Millbay Gardens, Millbay Terrace, Clayhills Grove, etc) is – for telephone and broadband – served by the Invergowrie Exchange.
 
Constituents have contacted me to complain that this exchange is not yet providing superfast broadband and I contacted the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband rollout team about this and have been advised by a member of the team as follows:
 
“I have conducted a search of our intervention area can confirm that the Invergowrie area is eligible for a state aid intervention as part of the programme.  This means that the premise of your constituents may benefit as part of the rollout.  
 
At present no announcement has been made regarding what areas will benefit and when.  We are currently developing a website which will go live on the 15th Oct 2013 showing information on what areas of Scotland are eligible for state aid intervention, all our public announcements will be made via this facility.  Our first rollout announcement is due to be made in early 2014.  
 
In the meantime updates will be given regularly to our Local Authority stakeholders through our regular catch-up session, and to members of the public through Twitter @digitalscots.” 

Broadband services in the West End

Many constituents in the western part of the West End Ward get their telephone and broadband services from the telephone exchange at Invergowrie.   

A constituent recently wrote to me to say that various Broadband providers fail to give the best deals to people served by the Invergowrie exchange.    To quote my constituent:

“For example, Plusnet for broadband and calls would cost me £12.99/month but someone with an upgraded telephone exchange would pay £6.49.    Sky would be £7.50 for unlimited broadband and telephone calls, but a Sky customer with the Invergowrie exchange would be £17.   AOL is £10.20 for people with an updated telephone exchange, but I pay £19.99.

As you can imagine, I would really like to save money with a cheaper deal but have no idea when the exchange will be updated.  I have spoken to other people in the West End of Dundee and they are also financially disadvantaged by having to use this outdated exchange.  We don’t have cable either so can’t use companies like Virgin.”

I took up this matter with BT, who own the exchange and their response is below.    I hope therefore that Broadband service providers will, in future, request installation of their equipment at the exchange to improve the commercial offering to people served by the exchange at Invergowrie:

“Dear Councillor Macpherson,

I’m replying to your letter of 15 May on behalf of your constituents who are served by the telephone exchange in Invergowrie near to the City of Dundee.

I’m unsure where your constituents have got the information from that Invergowrie exchange is outdated. That’s not so. It provides all the modern features to phone users and broadband services to residents and businesses in the area. It’s true that ADSL broadband technology is distance-based, but the individual user will get the best possible speed their line will support.  

When you mention that your constituents are unable to take advantage of less expensive broadband/telephone offers, I think you are referring to bundled packages – which include phone/broadband/TV – that are offered by companies.

Let me say that the UK is recognised as having one of the most competitive communications markets in the world.   A process known as Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) enables Communications Providers (CPs) to connect directly to the consumer via BT’s copper local loops and then add their own equipment to offer broadband and other services.

CPs can request a LLU upgrade at any BT exchange in the UK to offer their services.   I can report that we have not had any requests from CPs to install their own broadband equipment at the Invergowrie exchange.   As you will appreciate, BT is not in a position to comment on what future plans a particular CP may have to offer LLU services at a particular exchange.   It’s entirely up them to make that decision.    In this case, as the exchange is small, CPs may perceive that it’s not commercially viable for them to invest.   The only advice I can give is that your constituents involved here talk to their CP and ask them about their commercial plans.”