Superfast South Yorkshire

Guidance for Applicants: Connection Vouchers

The purpose of the Connection Vouchers are to assist businesses and third sector organisations to
meet the upfront capital costs of a high speed/high grade broadband connection to their premises.
The Scheme is funded by Sheffield City Region, European Development Fund (ERDF), part of the
European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF 2015-2020).


1. Is my business eligible to apply?
The basic eligibility for the Scheme is described by the European Commission’s definition of a Small
and Medium Sized business – SME. To be eligible your business must be a trading entity. So a Sole
Trader is eligible and so are not-for-profit organisations and charities so long as they meet the SME
definitions. People who are employees are not eligible. Your business must:

1.1: Employ fewer than 250 people or volunteers
1.2: Have a turnover of less than €50m and/or have a balance sheet of less than €43m
1.3: Have received less than €200k in public grants in the last 3 years (the “de-minimis” limit)
1.4: Not operate in a sector which is excluded from the scheme, namely:
Fishery and aquaculture sectors supported by European Fisheries Fund, primary production,
processing and marketing of agricultural products, supported by European Agricultural Fund for
Rural Development, coal, steel and shipbuilding sectors, the synthetic fibres sector, generalised
(school age) education, banking and insurance companies and retail businesses (generally deemed
to provide ‘local’ services and supporting them risks displacing other small retailers).

1.5: Have a parent company or linked enterprise which does not meet the eligibility criteria:
Linked and Partner Enterprises: if enterprises are linked or in partnership they will be treated as a
single entity. So, if you add up the employees or financials of your businesses and they exceed the
SME limits, then you won’t be able to have a voucher. If in aggregate they still qualify as an SME then
they are eligible for a voucher – so long as the other Scheme rules are met.

1.6: Your business must also not have had a Connection Voucher already.

1.7: Your business property must be located within an eligible area, these are the local authority
areas in the Sheffield City Region. You must pay business rates to one of the listed local
authorities, this will be confirmed as part of your application. If your business has any business
rates arrears, these must be cleared prior to application.

1.8: The address must be the registered office or trading address of your business. If you work from
a residential property as your main business base you can still apply. You cannot apply if you are
employed and work from home.

1.9: If you are a tenant of a business park or a commercial property landlord, additionally you must
have the approval of your landlord to proceed with the work.

2. What can I use my Connection Voucher for?
2.1: To be eligible for a Connection Voucher you need to show us that the new connection is a ‘step
change’ from what you had before. The following conditions apply, depending on what kind of new
connection you choose:
o For new Next-Generation Access (NGA) Connections, your supplier must provide
a minimum of 30Mbps to your premises. If your existing NGA-based broadband
service is 30Mbps or greater, then the upgraded NGA-based broadband service
must deliver at least a doubling of speeds compared to the service you currently
use. So for example if you already have 30Mbps, you must upgrade to at least
60Mbps.

o If you have chosen a business grade connection as your new service, it must have
both of the following characteristics:
o Offer a minimum of 30Mbps services to your premises now and be capable of being
configured/upgraded in the future
o Deliver at least a doubling of speeds when compared to your current business grade
connection. So if you are already on business grade, you must for example go from
20 to 40Mbps or 30 to 60Mbps. If you are transferring from NGA to business grade,
the requirement for a doubling of speed does not apply.
Business Grade connections are those that are provided on a dedicated/uncontended basis to
customers and are supported with service level guarantees. We recognise that these services can be
provided in the form of leased lines (including Ethernet services) or point-to-point microwave links
but we do not specify a particular type of service.

2.2: You cannot use the voucher to provide a second high speed or high grade connection to your
business premises/property, or for inter-site connectivity.

2.3: You can only apply for one Connection Voucher. If you have multiple premises you may use the
voucher to upgrade more than one premise but the total value of all connections may not exceed
£5,000 excluding VAT.

2.4: You cannot use the voucher to pay early termination charges if you switch from another
supplier.

2.5: The cost of your connection must be more than £1000 excluding VAT. If it is below that, we
cannot offer you a grant.

3: Qualifying costs:
The lines of demarcation in the network that qualify for subsidy are:
o Network side: The downstream port from the nearest active switching/routing device to a
customer’s Network Terminating Equipment (NTE); and
o Customer side: the customer-side ports (or wireless antenna) of the Network Termination
Equipment (NTE) to which a Network Communicating Equipment (NCE) is connected.
Passive and powered splitters/combiners, amplifiers, repeaters and regenerators which do not
provide a switching/routing function that are within these lines of demarcation qualify for subsidy,
as do other intermediate items that are required to provide the requisite service, as described
below.

Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) or NTE devices which provide a general computing function
beyond supporting a network data service do not qualify for subsidy, including most NCE devices,
telephones, tablets, laptops and PCs. By contrast CPE devices that only provide a networking
function, including, modems, (wireless) routers, 4G dongles, and internal 4G modules for laptops do
qualify.

While the precise categories of permitted expenditure will be dependent on the solution offered to
the SME the following categories of eligible expenditure are intended to provide suppliers with an
indication of the likely qualifying items.

Qualifying Network connection costs (for all types of connection):
o Planning, survey, acquisition, site preparation, installation, and commissioning fees;
o Provision of building entry points and (including breaking/drilling charges for entry through
external and internal walls), trunking and tray work (within end-user’s curtilage) and fibre
cable and jointing;
o Necessary supporting structures including poles and other mountings, brackets, fixings, and
associated civil works (including craneage);
o Power supplies equipment to support network electronics and optics, including power
o Company connection costs, but excluding any CPE power supplies beyond an existing 240V
AC socket;
o Copper and fibre optic cables, sheaths, connectors, joints, splitters and enclosures, coaxial
lines, copper waveguide, microwave feeders, jumpers, connectors, antenna radomes and
enclosures, lighting protection devices, and electrical earthing systems;
o In-building wiring on the network side of the CPE necessary to support the connection of the
customer in multi-tenanted blocks (e.g. in-building installation of fibre, cat5e, or RG6 coax
cable);
o Costs related to the purchase of wayleaves or other easement rights1
; and
o Adapters/converters to ensure that all the pre-existing communications functionality is
effectively maintained (e.g. adapters/converters for analogue telephones, dialup modems,
alarm diallers or other devices that may contain embedded modems such as medical
alarms).
Qualifying Network connection costs (for fixed NGA only):
o Provision of new footway and carriage boxes, poles and duct infrastructure; and
o CPE (e.g. Optical Network Terminal (ONT) or fibre modem), backup battery, patch panel and
residential gateway and associated intermediate power and fibre communications cables).
Qualifying Network connection costs (for wireless NGA only):
o Provision of building location points (including all associated mounting costs);
o Radio Frequency (RF) connectors, splitters, combiners, duplexors, diplexors, filters,
antennas, radomes and enclosures;
o External and in-building wireless repeaters if necessary for coverage; and
o Fixed wireless CPE costs.
Business connectivity (leased lines) connection costs (for fixed connections only):
o Provision of new footway and carriage boxes, poles and duct infrastructure;
o Costs related to the purchase of way leaves or other easement rights; and
o CPE (e.g. Optical Network Terminal (ONT) or fibre modem), backup battery, patch panel and
residential gateway and associated intermediate power and fibre communications cables).
Business connectivity (leased lines) connection costs (for wireless connections only):
o Provision of building location points (including all associated mounting costs); and
o Wireless CPE costs.

4: Excluded costs:
The connection voucher cannot be used to cover:
o SME connections to basic broadband technologies2
;
o SME connections to sub 30mbps service
o Additional charges for expedited connection e.g. time related charges (TRCs);
o Cancellation fees for any pre-existing connection;
o Cabling on the customer side of the CPE to support connection (e.g. in-premise installation
of fibre, cat5e or RG6 coax cable);
o Inter-site connectivity;
o Historic capital costs associated with network deployment;
o Any of the network elements that may require upgrading to support the final connection e.g.
‘middle’ mile/trunk, and core upgrades that are required to support the final connection;
and
o Operational expenditures and overheads (Opex), save for those that are direct incremental
and one-off costs associated with the installation of the new high-speed / high-grade
connection.
o Any retrospective costs incurred prior to the issuing of a connection voucher

5. What other conditions apply?
5.1: You must not have already received public sector funding to improve the broadband
connectivity to your business premises/ property.

5.2: You or your business/organisation must have no outstanding debts to the Local Authority at the
time you apply.

5.3: You must confirm that you have not already received de minimis aid that, together with this
voucher, would exceed the threshold of €200k over a three-year fiscal period. You will have been
issued with a letter by any schemes that grant de minimis aid telling you how much aid you have
received.

You can find more guidance at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/state-aid-abeginners-guide-guidance-notes or see the full EU de minimis Regulation at: Commission Regulation
(EC) No 1998/2006 of 15 December 2006 on the application of Articles 87 and 88 of the Treaty to de
minimis aid, L 379/5, OJEU, 28 December 2006, https://eurlex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:379:0005:0010:en:PDF