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UK Consumer Panel Seeks Clear Targets to Tackle Broadband Digital Divide

Thursday, May 31st, 2012 (1:17 am) - Score 437

The Communications Consumer Panel (CCP), an independent watchdog that claims to support consumer interests in the UK telecoms industry, has released a new report that calls for “clear targets” to help get more people online and for the government to “strike a better balance between funding for broadband infrastructure and supporting people online“.

The ‘Bridging the Gap: Sustaining online engagement‘ report notes that about 11 million people (22% of adults) in the UK still do not use the internet at home, which can be far higher in some parts of the country (e.g. the most deprived areas of Glasgow). The research also identified several key barriers that “create resistance to people using the internet“, as well as some drivers that encourage them towards it.

Barriers to Internet Adoption (Expressed as Consumer Responses)

* Lapsed user, female 70s: “I like going down to the post office. It gets me out and about and meeting people. I don’t want to stay indoors and stare at a computer screen.”

* Proxy user, male 50s: “I know you can get cheaper car insurance online. But I prefer the phone, so I get my son to find some good quotes for me and then I ring them up.”

* Narrow user, female 20s: “You know, by the time you’ve got the computer turned on and up and running, I could have done it all on the phone in half the time.”

* New user, female 60s: “I sit and press the buttons and keep pressing them until it works.

The’ proxy user’ is probably fine with that approach, likewise the ‘lapsed user’ makes perfect sense and the ‘narrow user’ must either have an incredibly slow computer or has somehow managed to avoid the huge call centre queues that most of the rest of us frequently endure. The ‘new user’ probably just needs some extra help or might benefit from a simpler computer, such as a tablet. But that’s just our opinion.

Bob Warner, CCP Chair, said:

“A significant minority of people risk being excluded from online benefits and services. That’s why we are calling for clear targets to assess the progress being made in supporting people to get and stay online. The Panel also wants to see the Government strike a better balance between funding for broadband infrastructure and supporting people online. Sustainable growth for the future can only be achieved if broadband is used by most consumers and businesses.

The distance is increasing between consumers who are online, with access to new services and faster broadband, and people who remain anchored in the offline world. Unless fundamental action is taken now to give people the skills to exploit the advantages of the internet, the digital divide risks becoming a digital gulf.”

At the time of writing we couldn’t find a copy of the report on CCP’s website, thus it’s difficult to know precisely how the organisation would tackle such complaints. Ultimately you cannot force people online and thus we need to respect that many people simply do not want to use the Internet.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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