3m People Without Broadband
The digital divide has narrowed considerably since the coronavirus breakout, but there are still 1.5m (5.3%) homes considered to be offline, according to Ofcom.
For many people, lockdown will leave a lasting legacy of improved online access and better digital understanding. But for a significant minority of adults and children, it’s only served to intensify the digital divide. We’ll continue to work with government and other partner organisations to promote digital literacy and ensure that people of all ages and backgrounds are empowered to share in the benefits of the internet. Yih-Choung Teh, Strategy and Research Group Director, Ofcom
More households have gone online during lockdown, narrowing the digital divide, new research suggests.
The proportion of homes without internet access fell from 11 percent in March 2020, as the UK entered lockdown, to 6 percent of homes a year later, according to data from Ofcom.
Many had to adapt to working and studying from home meaning some who previously did not have broadband will have found it is now a necessity.
Adults with previously limited digital skills have also embraced online shopping, digital banking and video calling whilst the younger generation acted as IT support, helping older or less digitally-confident friends and relatives get connected.
Many previously may have relied solely on their mobile phone contracts instead with some firms offering huge data packages, meaning a broadband connection was not needed when at home.
This is likely to be especially the case for those who have been able to access a WiFi connection at an office where they did not need to pay.
Others also piggyback off their neighbours WiFi connection when at home, sometimes as part of an arrangement, meaning they did not need a broadband line themselves – but working from home is likely to have changed all of the above, with a steady and secure connection needed.
For the 6 percent of households who remain offline, the research found digital exclusion during lockdown is likely to be more disempowering than ever.
Some 18 percent of those without home internet access are aged 65+ whilst 11 percent of lower income households still have no connection.
A further 46 percent of adults who remain offline say it is because they find the internet too complicated while 37 percent say a lack of equipment is a barrier.
However, three in five of those not using the internet at home have asked someone to do something for them online in the past year.
The lack of internet has also negatively affected some school age children.
While nearly all had online access in the home, 4 percent relied solely on mobile internet access during the pandemic with 2 percent only able to get online using a smartphone.
Additionally, around 17 percent of children did not have consistent access to a suitable device for their online home-learning.
This increased to 27 percent of children from households classed as most financially vulnerable.
Most children with intermittent access had to share a device to manage home-schooling but for 3 percent, the lack of access to a device prevented them from doing any schoolwork at all.
Additional data suggests the time children spent watching non-broadcast content each week, such as streamed content or online video, greatly increased last year – from 7 hours 49 minutes in 2019 to 11 hours 19 minutes in 2020, overtaking traditional broadcast viewing, at 6 hours 54 minutes, for the first time.
Gaming also grew in popularity among adults with 62 percent playing games on a device such as a smartphone, games console or PC, with a third of adults playing online, with or against other people.
Some 70 percent of 5 to 15 year olds played games online in 2020, with boys in particular using this as a way to connect with their friends.
Meanwhile, 23 percent of pre-schoolers aged 3 to 4 were also online gaming in 2020 with their parents claiming that nearly half of them now own their own tablet and 4 percent have their own smartphone.
Access to a fast and secure internet connection is now an essential part of many people’s everyday lives. The pandemic has led to a significant increase in the number of households choosing faster broadband packages as they juggle both their professional and personal lives online. Holly Niblett, Head of Digital, Compare the Market
Across the UK, there are literally millions of people living in newly built properties that still don’t receive the new 10Mbps minimum download speed as introduced by government legislation back in 2017.
A surprising highlight was found by an investigative journalist at Daily Mail which was regarding the general lack of access to decent broadband infrastructure as many developers opt for second-grade connectivity – Is this true? Can any of my 11K followers identify if this is true?
Thinkbroadband also conducted some research and can reveal that four out of ten new-build properties still rely on copper wire rather than fibre-optic cables for their connectivity, despite government efforts to promote the use of full fibre right to the door, as it looks to move the entire country away from a reliance on copper by 2033.
However, the figures also found one in eight new-build homes cannot even reach the minimum standard needed for decent broadband, defined by Ofcom as an average download speed of at least 10Mbps.
Several politicians have spoken out against this, with Grant Shapps, chairman of the British Infrastructure Group, saying it is time developers realised that good broadband is not an “optional extra” for homes today.
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable agreed, saying: “Internet connectivity is fundamental to people who work from home – and in a modern economy it is not just a luxury but a necessity.”
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