A PROPERTY business in East Oxford has become the first in the city to receive funding towards the cost of superfast broadband.

Oxford is one of 22 cities that are part of the Government’s £100m broadband voucher scheme.

Funding of £3.1m from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has gone to Oxford City Council to hand out cash boosts to small and medium-sized businesses.

RMA Properties in Cowley Road is the first business to be given a voucher to go towards the costs of installing broadband. Their’s is worth £995 but vouchers can range from £200 to £3,000.

Catrina Norris RMA Properties office manager, said consumers would benefit from faster internet speeds.

She said: “When you have 10 people working in an office like we do and they’re trying to track down the best prices for a replacement freezer for a property, for example, the quicker we can do that and the more websites we can visit the better. In the long term, consumers will benefit because it helps us to source products which are better value for money – and the knock-on effect is that they save money too.

“It also allows us to contact clients, customers and the council more quickly and as a result it makes our business more efficient, which is good for us and good for our customers so everyone wins.”

Gavin Spencer, small and medium business manager at Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce said: “High speed broadband is essential for businesses to compete and grow. There are so many benefits, such as the ability to transfer and download large volumes of data or to host data externally on the cloud, which is particularly useful for small businesses.

“They are also able to communicate more easily via email, video conferencing and social media. The result is an increase in home-based businesses and workers, which reduced travel costs and improves connectivity.

“Consumers can also benefit from online shopping which in turn helps internet- based businesses.”

A list of approved suppliers has been drawn up which businesses can use to install their broadband. RMA Properties used FirstLine Telecoms.

The Howard Street company’s John Crozier said: “We are more than happy to help any businesses who would like to benefit from it, and are looking forward to providing many more installations.”

City councillor James Fry, the council’s champion for small business, said: “We are determined to be a dynamic centre for business and to provide support for local businesses offering skilled, well-paid jobs to the people of the city.

“We hope that this new source of funding will enable small and medium-sized businesses to forge ahead, strengthen and develop.

“We all increasingly rely on excellent digital communication and this scheme will sustain the rapid growth and expansion of the city’s economic base in publishing, consulting, design, research, media, communications and digital innovation.’’ Businesses can check if they are eligible for the scheme by using a postcode checker to get a quote from the list of approved suppliers and submit the application.

To register interest in the broadband scheme, visit connectionvouchers.co.uk

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