Small businesses in Wolverhampton and across the Black Country which are being hampered by lower broadband speeds could be better connected from April 1 thanks to an extended voucher scheme.

Grants of up to £3,000 will be available to eligible small and medium businesses and charities and social enterprises through the scheme - which will enable them to cover installation costs of a faster and better broadband service. The City of Wolverhampton will be delivering the scheme for the whole of the Black Country as part of the Black Country Growth Hub. Businesses will be able to apply to the city council which will receive the funding from BDUK - the Government's superfast broadband delivery organisation. The scheme is expected to be announced in this week's Budget.

93% of Wolverhampton properties already have access to superfast broadband - (103,550). The gaps are mainly in the city's business areas; including the city centre, Stafford Road Technology Corridor, Bilston and Wednesfield.

City economy leader Peter Bilson said: "Superfast broadband connectivity is vital to economic growth and improving opportunities. While it is pleasing to know that we have 93% coverage in the city - there are gaps and notably in areas where small businesses are located. Businesses need fast broadband speeds to enable them to operate effectively, remain competitive and boost the local economy. The voucher scheme will mean more city businesses get connected at no extra cost."

When businesses get connected, support to enable them to get the best out of broadband and expand their operations is offered through programmes like Optimising Business Technology. Delivered as part of the Black Country Growth Hub and backed by the city council, the scheme provides one to one expert advice to ensure city businesses make the most of the latest technology and remain competitive.

One city business which has taken advantage of the scheme is Copestake Ltd Media Communications. The company provides communications support for businesses in the manufacturing, education, medical and creative sectors. Director Kate Copestake said: "I've been in business nearly 30 years and my generation was self taught in IT, creating what I call 'lazy gaps' in our knowledge. A lot of my work is fast response, and the rise in social media as a news platform requires my business to be joined up. This programme is simply the best thing that's happened to my business, revolutionising my way of working."

Businesses can find out more about the national Broadband Voucher scheme by visiting Type=links;Linkid=5930;Title=Connection Vouchers;Target=_blank;. Details about the Wolverhampton scheme will be added later this month.

  • released: Tuesday 17 March, 2015