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Small businesses could be set to get a considerable connectivity boost from a new government scheme.

Ministers have already consulted on the idea of handing out broadband vouchers worth up to £3,000 to small businesses across the country.

The idea would be for companies to join forces to spend their vouchers and therefore demonstrate to broadband providers there is a need and demand for faster services in their locations.

According to the Telegraph, ministers are quietly confident that the measure will be formally announced when Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond gives his keynote Budget speech on March 8th.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, Chair of a rural broadband group in parliament, is a keen advocate of this approach, insisting it is "hugely important and absolutely vital".

"Every party in the UK has been saying this needs to be rolled out as fast as possible," he commented.

"The percentage of people who now work at home in rural areas is going up massively. Small businesses nowadays have to have high-speed broadband. You can’t run a business without it."

Another option being considered is encouraging local authorities to install broadband infrastructure in public buildings, such as libraries, GP surgeries and schools.

This could enable communities to build a strong case to broadband providers for deploying a local fibre network in these locations.

The proposals have been hailed by head of the British Infrastructure Group of MPs Grant Shapps.

He said that over the last year, it has seen "some welcome determination from the government to fix some of our country's broadband gaps".

As a result, he believes these two plans "would be a very positive step in the right direction".

"We hope the Chancellor will act on them," Mr Shapps said.

"Using vouchers to allow businesses suffering poor internet speeds to find alternative solutions makes a lot of sense.

"With a range of technology from cellular to satellite internet, this means that companies don’t need to sit around waiting for Openreach to fix their connection speed."

Mr Shapps added that equipping public buildings with internet infrastructure is also an option well worth pursuing.

Indeed, he said this approach offers a "quick way for the government to help deliver high-speed internet to a specific location".

Ofcom recently reported a surge in the number of homes with superfast broadband connections over the last year.

According to the watchdog, around eight million homes - or 27 per cent - had average download speeds of 30Mbps or more a year ago. However, the figure now stands at 9.1 million - or 31 per cent. 

At the same time, the average download speed of a broadband service in the UK rose from 29Mbps to 37Mbps - an increase of 28 per cent.

Ofcom said this not only reflects better coverage, but also an increase in people opting to pay for faster broadband packages.

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