£3,000 broadband grant for SMEs: Is it as good as it sounds?

Craig Townley, director of IT support company NetDec, based at Preston docks shares his thought on a grant available to help businesses achieve better broadband speeds.

Have you heard about the £3,000 grant to spend on broadband for businesses based in Preston and South Ribble? It sounds excellent news doesn’t it? Well, mostly it is, but as with many things, the devil is in the detail and it pays to look at those details before you get too giddy.

So, what exactly is this grant, and what’s its purpose? The grant’s purpose is easy to define; it is designed to help small and medium sized businesses to access much faster broadband speeds. You can find out if you’re eligible on the Preston City website. That’s the simple bit done with.

Now, let’s cut through some of the headline hype. Firstly, it would be more realistic to say ‘up to £3,000’, because you aren’t guaranteed to get £3,000 and you must use one of the officially appointed installation companies. The grant is designed to pay for the hardware and installation costs involved in significantly increasing your broadband speeds. If this only costs £1,000, you’ll only get £1,000 – not that anyone should be complaining at this, it’s still a free installation!

Once the equipment has been installed and the connection is live, the individual business will be responsible for paying the monthly fee, just the same as with any other broadband connection. Of course, this will vary from provider to provider so it pays to check these costs before you appoint a company to do the installation.

When you look into broadband access, it’s amazing to find just how poor the broadband coverage is in many places. I think we’ll all be aware that rural areas often suffer from little or no broadband access but you’d be amazed at how many business parks have been built with little or no thought as to the internet access for the businesses that will be moving in. Both of these scenarios can be easily improved by using the grant, in combination with the right installation company.

Faster connection speeds can be achieved either by a direct cable connection, sometimes called a leased line or with a high speed wireless connection via a rooftop antenna. You should always check that any company you’re thinking of appointing can deliver either technology, because wired and wireless both have advantages and disadvantages. In either case, the whole of the bandwidth being delivered would be entirely yours, as opposed to most connections that are shared, whether you like it or not, leading to much slower speeds for everyone concerned.

Once you’ve got your building’s connection, you’ll have so much bandwidth, or speed that you could choose to share it with other companies nearby and still be far better off than you were before. And remember, every business involved could apply for a grant, so if the total installation cost will be more than £3,000 it’ll still be covered because there will be up to £3,000 available for each business involved.

Some examples of companies or organisations that could utilise this offer would be: • Companies sharing the same building. • Companies in the same area. • Whole industrial parks. • Schools needing bandwidth for multiple classrooms. • Holiday parks needing wifi coverage for many guests. The list goes on! There isn’t the space here to go into the intimate technicalities, but there is plenty of information on the Preston City website, and I’m always happy to have an informal chat with anyone wanting to find out more.