Broadband should be subsidised by the government, say local councils
Broadband seems as ubiquitous as running water and central heating. However, just like those two commodities we take for granted, not everybody has access to the internet – let alone fast broadband.
It seems that the poor and the aged are the two categories hit hardest by both a lack of heating and a lack of affordable broadband. There are already a number of charities, such as National Energy Action, helping those in need heat their homes, but when it comes to broadband nobody is really lobbying for change – until now.
The Local Government Association, a body representing councils in England and Wales, has said that government needs to include a social tariff in its universal service obligation for broadband. This subsidy would then help low-income families afford at least a 10Mbits/sec internet connection to their home.
If you’re wondering why these homes need broadband, it’s about more than just allowing them to watch Netflix or funny YouTube videos, it’s a case of social mobility. The LGA reports that one in four adults lack basic online skills – combine that with the ever-growing skills gap in the UK, and it’s clear that better digital education is needed. Access to the internet would also give many homes access to information they may have otherwise not known about, such as other benefits or schemes that could help them in their economic situation.
The LGA hasn’t stated a price for what it would deem as “affordable broadband”, but it does highlight BT’s £9.95-per-month package aimed specifically at those who receive jobseeker’s allowance, income support or other government benefits. The LGA hopes that other providers will follow BT’s example and provide affordable access to broadband for many homes that currently can’t afford it.
The government has already promised that, by 2020, every home will have the right to demand at least a 10Mbits/sec broadband connection. If the LSA can convince Westminster to roll government subsidies for broadband connections into this plan, more homes could finally gain access to the internet.
You may think that 10Mbits/sec is too slow, especially in four years’ time, when demands on bandwidth will be even greater. However, a 10Mbits/sec connection is more than enough for households to be able to learn digital skills online, look for jobs and stay in contact with friends and family.