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11 September 2014

FSB urges firms struggling with slow Internet to apply for £3k government voucher

Reference number: FSB PR 2014 04

A not-for-profit small business support organisation is urging firms in various Greater Manchester towns to apply for a Government voucher worth up to £3,000 to improve their broadband speeds. The scheme was initially rolled out earlier this year for businesses only in Manchester and Salford, but due to low uptake has now been extended to parts of Stockport, Trafford and Oldham.

The Federation of Small Businesses said many firms in those areas are suffering from slow Internet speeds, and urged people to check whether they were eligible. It also warned businesses to act fast as the money will be withdrawn after March next year.

The voucher, which is not repayable, can be used to fund a connection for small and medium sized businesses, charities, social enterprise, and other not-for-profit organisations. It can also be for an individual organisation, or several organisations applying as a group through a landlord or agent.

FSB member Luke Vernon, who owns marketing agency VSM Healthcare at Oldham''s Salmon Fields Business Village, recently learned his OL2 postcode is now available for the grant. He said: "It's great news as we've got shocking broadband speeds here. Our connection is just 1Mbps which is good for nothing. I am trying to grow a business and it''s a real hindrance when the broadband is that slow.

"We are working with BT to rectify this but fibre optic really can''t come soon enough. In this day and age small businesses like ours in an advanced economy should not have to be worrying about this kind of issue."

Richard Gregg, the FSB's Regional Chairman for Greater Manchester and North Cheshire, added: "Small businesses are the bedrock of the UK economy and critical to growth and job creation. In an increasingly globalised world in which technology is changing business practices, the vast majority of small firms need access to high-quality digital communications infrastructure and services in order to succeed.

"In a world where business is increasingly conducted online, small firms located in areas where connection speeds are not fit for purpose are thus at a competitive disadvantage. This has knock-on effects for the prosperity of local economies and exacerbates regional economic imbalances.

"We urge businesses to see if they are eligible, and also ask that it be made more widely available across Greater Manchester so other businesses can benefit."

The FSB's call to action comes after the employer support organisation published new research which showed a post code lottery for businesses in the UK when it comes to Internet speed. Their study revealed 45,000 firms in the UK still rely on dial-up, and uncovered issues in towns as well as rural areas when it comes to sub-standard connection speeds. Their research showed just 15% of firms in the UK were ‘very happy'' with their broadband speed.

Business in Greater Manchester can use a postcode checker to see if they are eligible for the £3k voucher by visiting: https://www.connectionvouchers.co.uk/manchester/