claims 'success' over SME broadband scheme

Can't give it away: Only two-thirds of original £100m target to be met

The government has admitted to falling substantially short of its original target to hand small businesses £100m in broadband vouchers.

The Broadband Connection scheme was launched at the end of 2013 to provide grants for faster web access of up to £3,000, but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport confirmed today that uptake was below forecasts.

As of April this year - the original deadline for small biz applications - a little over a quarter of the total pot, some £26m, had been distributed, the government department told us.

The offer was extended until next March, and the total amount of available cash reduced to £60m, or roughly two third of the original amount earmarked.

Uptake, to date, appears to have improved with businesses claiming a total of £54m worth of vouchers, the department confirmed.

The reason for sluggish adoption is thought to be poor connectivity, coupled with expensive high-speed leased lines.

In order to encourage SMEs to sign up to the scheme, the government has wasted spent £2m on an advertising campaign.

Heralding the sign up of 40,000 SMEs - since the scheme was launched 21 months ago - as a success, Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said the scheme has been a "tremendous success and is proving incredibly popular."

He added: "Businesses need to act now to ensure they don’t miss out on this fantastic offer and I’m urging all eligible businesses to apply now before it’s too late."

Come on, small biz owners – at this rate you've got barely months to stake a claim to one of those golden tickets. ®

Some £40m of that original pot was re-released for small businesses to claim by March 2016. ®

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