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Pledge Your Voucher

Background

We have now received a "Final Offer" from Openreach for the cost of upgrading the 373 properties in the South East Alresford scheme to FTTP. This is £387,230 or £1078 per property. The DCMS Voucher has a value of £1,500 rising to £3,500 if the voucher is claimed by an SME. Our current estimate is that the scheme is fully funded by DCMS Vouchers provided that 65% of the properties in the scheme area Pledge their Voucher to the scheme (assuming 5% are SMEs).

However, in order to cover their own risks Openreach demand a 30% excess in pledged vouchers which implies that we are looking for an 85% pledge rate.

Prior to the 5th April this year Hampshire County Council (HCC) was offering a top-up grant of £1,500 per resident. This would have readily covered any uncertainty over the pledge rate and would have ensured full funding once 45% of properties had pledged their voucher. However, given the recent local election period, the policy for any similar HCC grants and qualifying criteria will not be known until the new council meets. There are thus uncertainties over the voucher pledge target.

Openreach have advised us to take an alternative path to the one that had been anticipated earlier this year. They have asked us to approach all residents and businesses in the scheme area and to prepare a spreadsheet listing the details of all those who are willing to pledge their voucher to the scheme. What happens then depends upon the pledge rate:

Pledge Rate Action
> 85% The Scheme is fully funded by DCMS Vouchers and will be accepted by Openreach as "Demand Led"
> 65% The Scheme will probably be fully funded by DCMS Vouchers but requires a corporate body to underwrite any risk that some of the vouchers may not be redeemable. HCC will be approached to underwrite the scheme.
< 65% Additional funding is required to DCMS Vouchers. The scheme will require some HCC grant funding to go ahead.

Pledging your Voucher

It is thus really important to maximise the number of pledged vouchers and in the end, the rollout of this scheme depends on the residents of South East Alresford stepping forwarding and pledging their DCMS Voucher.

Specifically, the person who pays the bills and signs the contract for the broadband service is the one who applies for the voucher. If you are a tenant and you are able to choose which broadband service you get then you can pledge your voucher. If the internet is bundled in as part of the tenancy then it is the landlord that should claim the voucher.

In order to pledge your voucher, please complete our online form.

Your Responsibilities

For Demand Led Schemes (e.g. South East Alresford Scheme) you should not have to pay anything to get FTTP enabled as the intent is that the cost is covered by the DCMS voucher and HCC top-up grant, if available. However, when you pledge your voucher you are expected to:

  1. commit to upgrading to a 12 month contract with the ISP of your choice for a fibre connection with a download speed of at least 30Mbits/s, and
  2. which is at least double your current connection speed.

Given the speed doubling requirement you probably should start by using a broadband speed checker to test your internet connection speed - perhaps at several different times of the day in order to get an average - and save the results e.g. as a screen grab, just in case the DCMS later wants proof that you really have doubled your connection speed. The upgrade may increase your monthly outgoings. However, by shopping around you may find a deal cheaper than your current one - this is a very competitive market.

If you are a small business then you will need to provide suitable evidence in order to claim the full voucher. The DCMS will ask for evidence such as "VAT registration; Charity Registration: HMRC notification; sole trader UTR number; certification of incorporation (limited companies); business bank account statement issued within the last three months; non-domestic rates reference. Other documentation, such as business-related utility bills, may be acceptable in certain circumstances if combined with other documentation." The key requirement is evidence of trading at the address. A Business Bank Account statement in the name of your business and addressed to your home address appears to be an acceptable proof of trading.

You should also read the DCMS Terms and Conditions for the Rural Broadband Voucher Scheme (below).

You should expect to be contacted by the DCMS soon after the service is installed to confirm that it is working. You will be asked to complete a declaration that the new service has been installed and is performing as expected. You must respond to the DCMS requests for information within 28 days or your voucher may be cancelled. This is where it may have been useful to have checked your connection speed before pledging your voucher, so that, if necessary, you can provide proof that you have met the voucher conditions.

Please do not pledge your voucher unless you fully intend to fulfil the terms of the voucher and upgrade to a full fibre service. It should really only be for an exceptional reason that you do not follow through and complete the upgrade. You may incur a financial liability if, having pledged your voucher, you fail to upgrade to an FTTP service once the upgrade becomes available.

Update 26/5/21: the above has been edited to remove references to moving house. We have received updated guidance from Openreach that accepts that moving house is "OK" and that the voucher can be transferred to (e.g.) a new tenant. We now encourage you to pledge your voucher even if your expect to move house in the next 12 months as your successor will then be able to benefit from the upgrade.

See also - Pledging your Voucher - Your Responsibilities

Community Meeting

DCMS Voucher Application Form (our online form)

 

pdf-8Beneficiary Terms and Conditions