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23 May 2022

County Council funding to boost rural connectivity in Cumbria

Up to £2million of additional funding from Cumbria County Council is now available to help homes and businesses in rural areas of Cumbria get access to much faster and more reliable internet connections.

Vouchers (small grants) from the Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS) are currently available in Cumbria to subsidise the costs of bringing gigabit broadband to areas suffering with slow speeds.

This extra funding will ‘top up’ these vouchers so even more money is available to improve digital connectivity and boost the regional economy.

The GBVS currently provides up to £3,500 of funding for eligible rural businesses and up to £1,500 for eligible rural residential properties to install gigabit-capable connections as part of a group project.

Cumbria County Council’s top-up will match the existing funding available under the GBVS, so that eligible businesses can now apply for up to a maximum of £7,000 and eligible residential properties up to £3,000.

Gigabit broadband is capable of download speeds of 1 gigabit (1,000 megabits) per second. The economic and social benefits of these high-speed internet connections are central to the Council’s vision for the region and have been proven doubly important during the Covid-19 restrictions.

Businesses and residents in Cumbria are eligible to receive these contributions towards gigabit-capable connections if they are based in locations that are unlikely to benefit from commercial broadband rollout, or other public-funded gigabit broadband rollout, and where available services are currently less than ‘superfast’ (superfast is defined as a minimum of 30Mbps download speed).

This new top-up being launched by Cumbria County Council is the second top-up voucher scheme the Council has supported. The former Borderlands top-up, in both Cumbria and Northumberland, was funded via the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal. This delivered 41 projects, providing gigabit connectivity to over 1,200 properties in Cumbria so far.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said:

"Our £210 million voucher scheme is already helping rural communities in Cumbria get lightning-fast gigabit internet connections and it's great to see Cumbria County Council providing an extra £2 million to help more people struggling with slow speeds.

"Vouchers are just one way we're rolling out better broadband speeds through our £5 billion Project Gigabit programme - the biggest broadband upgrade in UK history - which is set to connect up to 60,000 hard-to-reach homes and businesses in Cumbria alone."

Cllr David Southward, Cabinet Member for Economy and  Cumbria County Council’s Digital Champion, said:

 “Improved digital infrastructure remains a top priority given the significant economic and social benefits for Cumbria and I am delighted with the progress we have made over the last year. The importance of resilient connectivity has been further highlighted by the recent storms and the coronavirus pandemic. As we continue to recover, access to fast, reliable internet connectivity is no longer a luxury; it is a basic necessity for residents, local businesses and the delivery of public services. I’d encourage all eligible residents and businesses to contact a supplier who will make an application for voucher funding on your behalf.”

Residents and businesses can visit the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme website at https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk to find a list of suppliers in their local area. Once you have made contact with a supplier, you do not need to do anything further and the supplier will apply for the relevant level of funding required to support each project.

Applications for the top up vouchers will open on 18th May 2022 with funding allocated on a first come basis - communities are strongly advised to apply as soon as they can to avoid disappointment. 

Up to £2million of additional funding from Cumbria County Council is now available to help homes and businesses in rural areas of Cumbria get access to much faster and more reliable internet connections.