BUSINESSES in North Tyneside and Gateshead are in for a major broadband boost as the Go Digital Newcastle Connection Voucher scheme spreads to their areas.
Under the scheme, small and medium businesses, charities and social enterprises can get up to £3,000 towards the cost of connecting to superfast broadband.
Go Digital Newcastle - run by Newcastle City Council with government funding from Broadband Delivery UK - is currently rolling out the programme to help boost the local economy.
Originally, the connection voucher offer was restricted to Newcastle, but it has now been extended to allow Gateshead and North Tyneside firms to benefit too.
Cllr Michael Johnson, Newcastle City Council Deputy Cabinet Member for Skills, Business and Enterprise, said: “This increase in the geographical coverage of the Go Digital Newcastle connection voucher means thousands more SMEs and self-employed people in the area are now eligible to apply for a voucher.
“As businesses in Newcastle are already discovering, superfast broadband makes a huge difference to companies who sign up for it, providing quicker, more reliable internet access.
“Businesses can reach their customers more easily, promote their products and services and cut their costs with more efficient working.”
Connection vouchers are worth from £200 to £3,000 towards the fixed cost of getting businesses connected to superfast broadband. The businesses choose their own supplier, and pay the on-going charges and any VAT.
Cllr Johnson said: “Because superfast broadband offers such benefits, we’re anticipating a big demand for these vouchers – and because funds are limited, we’d urge local businesses and charities to get their application in as soon as they can.”
Both North Tyneside and Gateshead Councils have welcomed the move.
Councillor Mary Foy, Gateshead Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy, said: “I’m delighted that the voucher scheme has been extended to both Gateshead and North Tyneside and that many more local businesses and charities will soon be benefiting from superfast broadband.
“This is good news for the North East’s economy, because improved connectivity allows businesses and charities to operate more efficiently and quickly for the benefit of their customers and clients.”
Elected Mayor of North Tyneside Norma Redfearn said: “We know that North Tyneside’s small and medium sized enterprises, which can benefit from this offer, want to be at the forefront of this borough’s growth.”
Go Digital Newcastle is also improving the availability of superfast broadband across Newcastle where it will be available to 97% of homes and businesses by Summer 2015, making Newcastle one of the best-connected cities in the UK. The scheme is also installing free Wi-Fi hot spots in public areas.