A FREE superfast broadband installation service that failed to take off with Portsmouth businesses has been extended to neighbouring boroughs.
Firms in Gosport, Fareham and Havant can now apply for vouchers worth up to £3,000 as part of a scheme set up by Portsmouth City Council.
Since the start of the initiative 10 months ago, only 11 companies in the city have applied for a piece of the £4.7m put aside.
Critics argue the line rental is too expensive and that the programme hasn’t been well publicised.
V3 Recruitment in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, was the first firm to receive a grant. Operations director Andrew Reynolds said rental prices for the scheme could put people off as they can reach up to £300 a month.
But the leader of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Donna Jones, has welcomed the move to open up the scheme across the area.
She said: ‘It is excellent news that businesses in the wider Solent area can also access this funding thanks to phase two of the scheme.’
Vespasian Security, an event management business in Southsea, joined the programme in May.
Simon Hodge, senior operations manager, said: ‘We’ve actually saved money on our line rental, about £9 a month from just moving across to the supplier we’re with now – Stream Networks.
‘Compared to what we had before it’s brilliant because it’s working, it’s fast, and I can’t sing its praises enough.’
Leader of Gosport Council, Councillor Mark Hook, said: ‘I would encourage all Gosport businesses to find out if they are eligible for free connection to faster broadband under this scheme that can deliver a significant boost to their business.’
Portsmouth City Council got the cash for the project from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Super-Connected Cities.
Cheryl Soutar, marketing officer for Super-Connected Cities, said: ‘We have had a lot of interest from businesses in our neighbouring authorities and Portsmouth City Council was keen to enable them to also benefit from this excellent scheme.
‘We have already seen applications from small and medium-sized businesses in these boroughs, including applications from Gosport and Fareham.’
Firms must have turnover of less than £40m with fewer than 250 employees to apply and the deadline for applications is March 2015.