AROUND 750 data-hungry Dorset businesses have taken advantage of the scheme to speed up broadband.

The Connection Vouchers Scheme is administered by Dorset County Council on behalf of Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset.

Collectively, more than £1m worth of broadband connections have been made, with some businesses reporting speeds in excess of 300mbps.

The government scheme was open to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and offered up to £3,000 towards a faster, more reliable broadband connection.

Susanne Barrett once struggled with no connectivity in her Christchurch greetings card shop, Traditions. She often found herself processing paperwork at home, which in turn weighed heavy on her work-life balance, meaning less time was able to be spent on the ground, managing her business. She said:

“The business now provides an improved customer experience and offers the opportunity to operate online which will lead to increased sales and revenue. The offer was so good, I could not have afforded it without the voucher.”

In all cases where a Connection Voucher was issued, businesses saw download speeds at least quadruple.

Outside the conurbation, the average download speed achieved, after a business had received the business-grade service, was still 50mbps.

If used well, faster broadband grants a small business access to new markets, increases security through secure backup of data, improves employee productivity and even allows a business to offer a refined customer service experience.

Dorset County Council’s portfolio holder for economy, Cllr Colin Jamieson, said: “The Broadband Connection Voucher scheme has proven a tremendous success for Dorset. With a wealth of businesses in the county taking advantage of the offer, many are already seeing the difference that faster speeds make. The scheme has further helped in transforming Dorset’s digital landscape, especially for commerce. Creating one new job for every four connections made and attracting investment into the county, tThe Government initiative has further cemented Dorset’s status as a desirable destination for business.”

It is expected that the scheme will give Dorset’s local economy a £5m boost, equating to a return on investment of five pounds for every pound that the Government has invested in the scheme. Beneficiaries of the scheme can also expect to see, on average, a profit increase of around £1,300 in the first year after the connection is made.

Comprising of a £40m national challenge fund, the scheme was available on a first-come-first-served basis and had intended to run for one year from March 2015. With the scheme seeing very high demand nationally, the funding was exhausted ahead of schedule, eventually closing in October.

Whilst the initiative has now ended, businesses in enabled areas can still upgrade to a faster service and make use of Dorset’s fibre network where service is available.

With Dorset now at 90 per cent superfast coverage, the time is now for businesses to secure their digital futures and take advantage of Dorset’s new fibre infrastructure.