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Call for rural communities to take advantage of extra funding to boost digital connectivity in Cumbria

Rural communities across Cumbria are being reminded to take advantage of voucher funding from the Digital Borderlands scheme, to help them secure faster and more reliable internet connections for homes and businesses.

Digital connectivity, mobile and fixed broadband, is essential for communities and businesses, with the importance of these services highlighted by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Vouchers are currently available across rural areas in the UK to subsidise the cost of bringing gigabit-capable broadband services to areas suffering from slow internet speeds.

As part of the £394.5m Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, up to £4m of additional Government funding has been made available in our region to ‘top-up’ these vouchers, so more money is available to improve digital connectivity and boost the regional economy.

The Government’s Rural Gigabit Broadband Vouchers Scheme (RGBVS) currently provides up to £3,500 funding for eligible businesses and up to £1,500 for eligible residential properties to install gigabit-capable connections.

The £4m made available is being used to match the level of funding available under the RGBVS in areas where available services are less than 30Mbps download speed, so that eligible businesses can now apply for up to a maximum of £7,000 and eligible residential properties up to £3,000.

So far, more than 300 properties in Cumbria have been granted vouchers, with over £1.4m of the top-up funding committed across Cumbria and Northumberland already.

Applications for vouchers must be submitted by a supplier on behalf of eligible businesses or residential properties by the RGBVS deadline of 31 March 2021. This means that there is limited time remaining for communities to choose their supplier, receive a quotation and agree for the supplier to make their applications.

Cllr David Southward, Digital Champion and Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “The top-up to the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme secured through the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal will help bring gigabit-capable broadband to rural areas. I’d encourage all eligible residents and businesses to contact a supplier who will make an application for funding on your behalf as soon as possible.”

Cumbria County Council is committed to improving digital connectivity through supporting investment in digital infrastructure and the Digital Borderlands top-up scheme is a key part of the Council’s Digital Infrastructure Strategy.  The Council will continue to work with service providers to support joining of technology for seamless connectivity to services and applications through the most appropriate routes. Further information on the Digital Infrastructure Strategy can be found online at www.connectingcumbria.org.uk

Residents and businesses can visit the Rural Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme website at www.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 on your behalf. Applications for broadband vouchers must be submitted by a supplier before 31 March 2021.

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