The government should provide a subsidy to enable the poorest Britons to have access to fast broadband connections, the Local Government Association (LGA) has argued.
In its report, the LGA claims that a quarter of adults do not have basic online skills. To tackle this skills gap, it suggests that low-income families should be provided with financial aid, so that they may receive a broadband service at least 10Mbps or faster. However, the plan has been criticised by some, who believe than 10Mbps is not fast enough.
While the LGA has not specified what an affordable price for broadband is, it believes a scheme offered by BT acts as a good example. BT customers on jobseeker’s allowance, income support or other forms of benefit can pay just £9.95 a month for a telephone and broadband service.
Councillor Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, commented that a lot of government services are going online, and it’s vital that everyone can have affordable access to them.
“Good digital connectivity is a vital element of everyday life for residents and can help them cut household bills, shop online for cheaper goods, stay in touch with distant relatives, access their bank accounts and even run their own businesses,” he stated.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, added that one in seven pensioners are living in poverty, meaning they are often cut off from the benefits of being online.
In response to the LGA’s report, the government has said UK residents will have the right to a broadband service of at least 10Mbps by 2020, thanks to a new broadband universal service obligation (USO).
Culture minister Matt Hancock said that 10Mbps is not a future-proof speed and there should be a bigger focus on rolling out superfast broadband and 4G.