The last decade has seen digital exclusion go from a relatively minor issue to a significant problem for millions of citizens. The latest stats show that nearly 12m people (22% of the UK population) lack at least some essential digital skills. At the same time, we are increasingly having to conduct our lives online. Everything from banking and comparison shopping to communications and entertainment is now primarily done via the internet.
All of this means that having good internet access is a non-negotiable necessity. Yet many people, especially those who rent on private land such as apartment blocks or who are in social housing, are being forced to go without because network operators struggle to get permission to carry out construction on the property. Addressing this problem is one reason why we’re rolling out city-wide full fibre connectivity in Portsmouth, providing access speeds of up to 1000Mbps, approximately 40 times faster than current superfast broadband, for almost every street.
Investing in getting previously excluded citizens online has a host of benefits. According to the ONS, people who are online are more employable and likely to earn up to 10% more than their offline counterparts. On top of this, they’re less lonely because they’re better able to communicate with friends and family and able to save money as online shopping is approximately 13% cheaper than brick and mortar retail options.
Being online also provides vital flexibility for busy households. Having access to public services like Universal Credit, or private services like online banking, saves an average of 30 minutes per transaction. Not only is this better for citizens but it reduces the number of face-to-face / telephone calls being fielded, allowing councils to focus much-needed resources elsewhere.
Outside of this, one of the biggest benefits of full fibre is the ways in which it can allow tenants to reduce energy bills by installing smart meters and other connected devices. Smart meters not only help people reduce their environmental impact, they can also help save up to £200 on energy bills, roughly 20% of the national average. Plus, although the 2020 deadline for smart meter rollout may be pushed back, residents will find that the better deals are increasingly only available to those with smart meters installed.
Tackling digital inclusion is one of the biggest challenges for 21st Century Britain. As the internet becomes ever more integral to our daily lives, it’s no longer about whether someone can browse YouTube easily, it’s an economic and healthcare necessity. Full fibre can fix the problem, platforming everything from individual residents saving time with online banking or helping social landlords spot structural problems.
The UK government has recognised the urgency of the issue and has pledged to have full fibre rolled out across the entirety of the UK by 2027. At CityFibre, we’re proud to be part of that work by bringing full fibre to the people of Portsmouth.
To find out more about the work that CityFibre is doing in Portsmouth to provide full fibre, please go to: cityfibre.com/your-street and to find out more about Hive Portsmouth’s developing Digital Library initiative to help local people access digital technology and essential online services, please go to: cityfibre.com/news for more details.