LGA demands cheaper broadband for poorest people

People on benefits need a cheaper, basic internet service, says body

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for the government to introduce lower-priced broadband to ensure it's accessible to everyone, not just those on high incomes as part of its Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Suggestions by the organisation on how to tackle expensive high-speed broadband include giving low-income families a basic service of at least 10Mbps. The LGA pointed broadband providers towards a precedent set by BT, which offers a 9.95 per month broadband and phone service for people who receive benefits, including income support or jobseeker's allowance.

"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," councillor Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA's people and places board, said.

"As central and local government services become more digital, the USO will need to provide faster and more reliable speeds and, for our most vulnerable residents, a subsided connection at an affordable price."

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, agreed with the LGA's view, explaining one in seven pensioners live in poverty and can't afford current broadband prices, leaving them out in the cold when it comes to getting online.

Culture Minister Matt Hancock didn't comment on reducing prices, but added that although limits of 10Mbps may be enough for now, it won't serve future demands of the nation. He suggested three steps for the government to take in order to future-proof broadband for all generations.

"First, we must complete the rollout of universal 4G and superfast broadband between now and 2020. Second, we must deliver deeper connectivity now in areas of deep need, and support a competitive market for delivery," he said.

"Third, we must start work now on ubiquitous 5G and fibre over the decade ahead. The destination on this journey must be to push digital connectivity out as far as it will go, treating broadband as the fourth utility."

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