DCMS launches consultation on Connection Vouchers

DCMS launches consultation on Connection Vouchers

Yesterday the Department for Culture, Media and Sport launched its much anticipated consultation on Connection Vouchers, one part of the government’s high profile Super Connected Cities programme (also referred to as the Urban Broadband Fund). It is available for download here.

Minister Ed Vaizey has described the Connection Voucher initiative’s aim to “stimulate the market to improve digital connectivity in participating cities, in particular for the benefit of SMEs”. The scheme is based around five “core design principles” as follows (click image to expand):

 UBF Consultation core principles

DCMS are seeking views and opinions from SMEs and ISPs around the below list of consultation questions, with responses due by 24 July 2013. Over the coming weeks, the BSG will be working with stakeholders on input to this consultation. Watch this space for our response.

  • Question 1:  What methods do you consider most useful and practical in the context of stimulating awareness and demand for a broadband connection scheme?
  • Question 2:  If you are an SME, ISP or network operator: (a) would you be keen to participate in the voucher scheme on the basis that we have set out in this consultation? (b) In addition to the elements described in this consultation document, what further steps, if any, would BDUK need to take to ensure your participation in the scheme (e.g. broadening the categories of eligible end-users)?
  • Question 3:  Does BDUK need to place any conditions or criteria on the vouchers to ensure effective take-up by end-users?
  • Question 4:  Which costs do you consider should eligible for funding by the connection voucher?
  • Question 5:  Do you think the current value range proposed for the connection vouchers (£250 to £3,000) is appropriate?
  • Question 6:  Should a contribution to the connectivity costs be required of end-users or should the scheme support the total costs of connectivity? If you consider a contribution to be appropriate please explain why and confirm which end-user should be required to contribute (e.g. SMEs, residents etc.), and what the minimum contribution should be.
  • Question 7:  Do you agree that a ‘portal’ (web based interface) providing is the best mechanism to enable end-user’s to meet potential suppliers? If so, what information do you consider should be provided on the ‘portal’?
  • Question 8:  Other than the use of a portal, what steps could be taken by BDUK to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of the scheme for suppliers and end-users?
  • Question 9: The measures that BDUK is proposing are designed to stimulate the take-up of high-grade connectivity demanded by SMEs. These measures and the voucher scheme in particular have been formulated to work with the current regulatory framework and State aid rules. Please confirm: (a) Whether and how you consider these measures might result in a distortion to competition and what, if any, adjustments to the scheme might serve to correct for such distortions; and  (b) Whether the operation of the proposed scheme is likely to give rise to any regulatory concerns.
  • Question 10:  What methods do you consider might be most useful and practical to monitor the Voucher Scheme and evaluate its outcomes?
  • Question 11:  Are there any other aspects that directly relate to BDUK’s proposed demand-side measures that you would like to raise?