Forres residents urged to claim vouchers for more ultrafast broadband

Richard Lochhead MSP supports new initiative to extend rural next-generation network build


Hundreds of residents in Forres can now connect to ultrafast, ultra-reliable broadband - and Openreach is calling on local people to back a bid to bring the new network to even more homes and businesses.

The company is planning a major expansion to the town’s full fibre broadband network next year, and is urging local residents and businesses to consider pooling broadband vouchers available from the UK and Scottish Governments to help extend the build even further.

Residents who don’t already have access to a 100Mbps broadband service can check if they may qualify and pledge their voucher on the Connect My Community website.

The vouchers can be combined to extend the ultrafast, ultra-reliable network to premises in outlying rural areas which won’t be covered by private investment.

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s partnership director for Scotland, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity for Forres to bring full fibre infrastructure to the very hardest-to-reach local addresses.

“Because we’ve already committed to build full fibre to the majority of the town, the Scottish and UK governments are supporting this incremental approach to help us to go even further. But it’s only possible with everyone working together – you, your neighbours and Openreach.

“Everyone who pledges a voucher will be doing their bit to help make Forres one of the best-connected places in Moray. Pledging couldn’t be simpler, but we need residents to act quickly – as the scheme closes in March 2021.”

Robert added: “Several hundred local homes, mainly in recent housing estates in the south part of the town, can already upgrade to the Openreach full fibre network, and local people can use our online postcode checker to see what’s now available.

“We’re investing £12 billion to build full fibre broadband to 20 million homes – and more than three million of those will be in the toughest third of the UK – but we can’t upgrade the whole country alone. This latest support from government, alongside help to remove red tape and barriers that slow down the build, is vital.”

To claim vouchers which contribute towards the cost of building the new network, residents are asked to commit to ordering a full fibre service from a provider of their choice for at least 12 months once the new network is available.

Eligible residents qualify for up to £1,500 for rural homes and up to £3,500 for small and medium-sized businesses under the UK Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme – whilst the Scottish Government can boost the funds to eligible households by a further £5,000. The agreement between the two Governments means maximum funding of £6,500 for eligible households and £8,500 for qualifying businesses could be available.

Richard Lochhead MSP backed the initiative, saying: “Now, more than ever, rural communities need fantastic connectivity to fully interact with the world. Full fibre technology will make a massive difference to local homes and businesses. It makes sense for the local build programme to be extended as far as possible, and I urge residents to consider pledging their vouchers for the common good and help us to make sure that nobody’s left behind.”

UK Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “We're committed to levelling up communities across the UK with lightning-fast gigabit broadband that will improve lives and boost the economy. The broadband vouchers on offer provide immediate financial help for people to get next-generation speeds by covering the installation costs of companies such as Openreach. I urge people to check online if they are eligible for a broadband boost."

The Scottish Government’s Connectivity Minister Paul Wheelhouse added: “Vouchers are an important part of delivering on our commitment to give every address in Scotland access to a superfast broadband connection by the end of 2021. It’s good to see Openreach working with communities to encourage aggregation of vouchers. This was always the plan for how SBVS would work and we will continue to work with all of our registered suppliers to encourage further voucher aggregation across Scotland.”

Full fibre technology provides more reliable, resilient and future-proof connectivity; meaning fewer faults; more predictable, consistent speeds and enough capacity to easily meet growing data demands. It's also future-proof, which means it will serve generations to come and won’t need to be upgraded for decades.

Fibre optics - strands of glass around one-tenth the thickness of a human hair - transmit data using light signals. Fibre is smaller, lighter and more durable than copper cabling and less vulnerable to damage. This short video explains what full fibre technology is and there’s more info here.