Broadband Minister in Sheffield warns free £3,000 vouchers are running out

Ed Vaizey MP visits We Do 3D Printing after they have taken up an option to use a broadband connection voucher from Idaq. Picture: Andrew Roe
Ed Vaizey MP visits We Do 3D Printing after they have taken up an option to use a broadband connection voucher from Idaq. Picture: Andrew Roe

Broadband Minister Ed Vaizey made a special trip to Sheffield to plug a free voucher scheme worth £3,000 to businesses - and warn the money is running out.

The MP visited We Do 3D Printing in Attercliffe, which has been revolutionised by a superfast 100Mb connection installed at no cost to the company.

Ed Vaizey MP talks to Darren Barker of We Do 3D Printing.

Ed Vaizey MP talks to Darren Barker of We Do 3D Printing.

It is one of 274 in the county to take advantage of broadband connection vouchers.

The Government is now issuing 1,000 a week, worth £1m, following a massive surge in applications.

Locally, some 170 firms in Sheffield, 51 in Doncaster 34 in Barnsley and just 26 in Rotherham have signed up to the scheme.

Ed Vaizey said he was keen for as many South Yorkshire businesses as possible to apply before funds run out - likely to be in September.

(l-r) John Kawalek, Universtity of Sheffield, Ed Vaizey MP, Mark Roebuck, Idaq and Rhisu Saha and Darren Barker of We Do 3D Printing.

(l-r) John Kawalek, Universtity of Sheffield, Ed Vaizey MP, Mark Roebuck, Idaq and Rhisu Saha and Darren Barker of We Do 3D Printing.

He told The Star: “Broadband is pretty essential. It makes a huge difference to your presence.

“And it’s very easy, We Do 3D Printing heard about it and got connected within days. They went for wireless connectivity which is very easy to install.

“Broadband is not as good as it should be in South Yorkshire. The city centre is excluded from the Superfast South Yorkshire scheme - but the vouchers are a way of giving money for a connection directly to business.”

We Do 3D Printing, which employs five, moved into premises on Carwood Street a year ago - just as the superfast Digital Region network was switched off.

Ed Vaizey MP talks to Darren Barker of We Do 3D Printing after they have taken up an option to use a broadband connection voucher from Idaq. Picture: Andrew Roe

Ed Vaizey MP talks to Darren Barker of We Do 3D Printing after they have taken up an option to use a broadband connection voucher from Idaq. Picture: Andrew Roe

Managing director and co-founder Darren Barker said it had had a massive impact - the firm had struggled with broadband speeds of just 2Mb.

Co-founder John Kawalek said it had forced them to put plans to grow on hold.

He added: “It was a nightmare, we used to have to go home to download large files and bring them in on a memory stick. And broadband would just stop working at lunchtime every day.”

The firm went superfast two months ago after obtaining a free £3,000 voucher which paid for a wireless connection with Sheffield firm Idaq - it also covers the £60-a-month subscription charge for a year, he added.

We Do 3D Printing produces low numbers of hi-tech prototypes. It also runs five web shops and sells 3D printer parts.

Idaq Networks co-founder Mark Roebuck said they had spent £500,000 on 13 transmitters that covered Sheffield city centre and the Don Valley.

The last one was installed on the Magna visitor centre in Rotherham this week.

It has 60 customers - with 30 in the pipeline thanks to the voucher scheme - but is predicting exponential growth after completing its network.

High profile customers include Sheffield United, Magna, Urban Splash at Park Hill, Holiday Inn Express and Royal Victoria and the Cutlers’ Hall.

Digital Region was a £100m taxpayer-funded superfast broadband network which covered South Yorkshire, including Sheffield city centre. But it was switched off in August year after it was a commercial flop.

In September the county’s four councils signed a £22m deal with BT to provide superfast broadband to South Yorkshire. But Sheffield city centre was excluded.

Ed Highfield, director of Creative Sheffield, the council’s business arm, said private business was now providing the answer.

He added: “Twelve to 18 months ago it was about wires in the ground. This wireless network shows the market has changed so much, we’re saying to businesses don’t just assume you can’t get superfast.”

Apply for a voucher here: https://www.connectionvouchers.co.uk/