Over 2,000 rural homes and business are getting next generation, gigabit capable broadband due to investment from the Kent Top-Up Voucher Scheme and the Government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme.
This builds upon the 95% of Kent properties that can already access an ultra-fast or superfast broadband connection. The scheme was launched to fund broadband improvements for residents in hard-to-reach areas with little or no connectivity.
The pilot initiative developed by KCC and the Government’s Building Digital UK (BDUK) team has provided additional funding for homes and businesses applying for the Government’s national broadband vouchers. This has meant that eligible Kent residents can get up to £5,500 extra towards the costs of a broadband connection. Kent County Council has contributed £2.8 million and the pilot has also received over £2m of funding from the Government’s Getting Britain Building fund thanks to the support of the Kent and Medway Economic and the South East Local Enterprise Partnerships.
It should also be recognised that throughout the pandemic, key workers continued to build the necessary infrastructure to keep this project on track and to deliver other upgrades which have doubled the availability of fibre-to-premises connections across Kent.
Participation in the Kent Voucher scheme to date has been an unprecedented success, exceeding similar initiatives nationally, making a major difference to over 2,000 homes and businesses in Kent.
Alan Bonner lives in Tilmanstone, near Eastry and led the project to get his village connected:
“Being a small village in a rural setting, Tilmanstone sadly didn’t qualify for the original Openreach project delivering fibre optic broadband across Kent; the cost was just too high.
“But, after KCC identified and contributed additional funding specifically for hard-to-reach areas, they quickly contacted me to offer the opportunity to apply for the Kent Top-Up Vouchers.
“The support from KCC has been fantastic throughout. Extremely helpful and knowledgeable officers visited me at my home to explain the process, put me in touch with Openreach, liaised with them on my behalf and were with me every step of the way solving any issues and helping me to keep my project on track.
“My project was awarded £75k Kent Top-Up Vouchers and now, just 18 months later, 116 premises in Tilmanstone have access to super-fast broadband and by the end of March, all properties in the village will have connectivity.
“This has made a hugely positive difference to residents and businesses here. A lot of people run home businesses and they have told me how much quicker and secure their transactions are now.
“I can’t praise KCC and the Kent Top-Up Voucher scheme enough and have recommended it to other people in rural areas.”
As the Kent Top-Up Voucher Scheme initiative draws to a close in March 2021 (or when current funding is exhausted), KCC is continuing to work with Government to inform their plans for further improvement to broadband connectivity in rural areas and benefit from new investments.
Mike Whiting, Cabinet Member for Economic Development said:
“I am delighted that the Kent Top-Up Scheme has helped so many hard-to-reach homes and businesses get better broadband connections across the county and extremely grateful for the additional Government funding provided to enable this.
“This small, pilot scheme has provided an invaluable solution to help rural premises to obtain vital superfast broadband connectivity, and KCC will be encouraging the Government to make further funding available in the future to support more of these community-led schemes.”
Notes to Editors:
Details of KCC Broadband Programme
Details of Kent Broadband Top-Up Voucher Scheme https://www.kent.gov.uk/leisure-and-community/broadband/broadband-voucher-schemes/kent-broadband-top-up-voucher
The Kent Broadband Top-Up Voucher Scheme is part of the Government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme and is administered by Building Digital UK on behalf of Kent County Council. Details of the Government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme.
The Kent and Medway Economic Partnership
The Kent and Medway Economic Partnership (KMEP) is the economic partnership for Kent and Medway which aims to drive forward economic growth and prosperity throughout the region. It was set up in 2013. KMEP is governed by a Board and chaired by the private sector, with membership drawn from business, local government, further and higher education.
The South East Local Enterprise Partnership
The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) is one of 38 LEPs, established to provide the clear vision and strategic leadership to drive sustainable private sector-led growth and job creation in their area. LEPS were set up by the government to be the key body determining strategic economic priorities while making investments and delivering activities to drive growth and create jobs.