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Tory MP Wants UK Social Housing Tenants to Have FREE Broadband

Monday, November 5th, 2012 (1:27 pm) - Score 959

The Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen (South East Lancashire), Jake Berry, has called for all social housing tenants (e.g. people in poverty or those with low incomes) to be given either a low cost or even free broadband internet access service.

Writing in The Guardian Berry, whom is also the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Grant Shapps, Minister for Housing and Local Government, said that his idea had actually been well received by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith. But he was later scalded by readers of a local newspaper, many of whom were less than pleased with the idea of social housing tenants getting something else for free.

Curiously Berry’s explanation of how this solution could work confusingly suggests that the costs for such a service would be “recovered by landlords and tenants“. To confuse matters further he also points to the wide availability of both cheap phone line rental (e.g. BT Basic) and broadband deals (e.g. Primus Saver offer broadband from just £1.20 a month), which could perhaps equally be used as an argument against the need for subsidising a free service.

Jake Berry explained:

If we are serious about helping those in social housing, we should offer free broadband. Social landlords should use their purchasing power to procure broadband in bulk; if I can get it for £3.50, they should be able to achieve even greater savings. They must also retrofit this service to existing homes and include the costs in the rent, and the government must enable the cost of this service to be recovered by landlords and tenants.

Tackling the digital divide could provide savings for social tenants, but the benefit for government and taxpayer could be greater. It is estimated that moving vehicle tax disc renewals online saves £90m a year and NHS Direct saved £50m in 2008 by providing basic health information online. In April 2013, the new digital-by-default universal credit will be introduced and the government wants 80% of applications for this be online by 2017.

If the government is serious about ending digital exclusion in social housing, opening up new routes to literacy and numeracy and championing aspiration, it must enable social landlords to go digital by default too.”

Meanwhile ISPs are unlikely to be pleased with the idea of going into competition with local authority provided services, although some social housing authorities and local councils have already attempted a similar solution via the roll-out of free public wifi services.

More over Berry’s idea might not actually be all that far off what the government has planned. Back in December 2011 Grant Shapps pledged to end the “digital apartheid” that had left more than half of council tenants (social housing) in a situation where they are unable to use the internet and or have never gone online at all.

At the time Shapps suggested that he wanted to see new affordable homes being built ‘broadband-ready‘ and for internet access to be a part of the “standard rent package“.

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26 Responses
  1. Avatar Phil says:

    I cannot see it happen. Last time Labour offer free laptop with free broadband before the Tory scrapped it.

  2. Avatar FibreFred says:

    Why bother getting a job? free homes, free Broadband and a heap of benefits to claim

    Sounds ideal

    Why can’t they just go down to the local library or internet cafe and use the Internet.

    Never mind cutting the fire service and risking lives, lets give out free broadband, another tory blunder

    1. Avatar cyclope says:

      Lol. Why can’t they go down to their local library, Are you even aware of the massive cuts this government have made to local councils ? Most areas will be lucky if they have a library next year, as most are being closed
      And not only that, all those who are claiming benefits will have to pay probably £100 + per year towards council tax in some areas, explain how someone who is being paid only £70.00 per week (jsa) is going to be able to afford that,let alone keep warm and feed themselves ? It’s a good life style being out of work or too sick/disabled and unable to work,not that there is much work around,unless you want to work for the minimum wage or just above it,

  3. Avatar Merrton says:

    Another kick in the teeth for honest workers. Seriously, why do I bother working?

  4. Avatar captain.cretin says:

    I already get less by working than many get sitting on their fat arses, why do I bother????

  5. Avatar sentup.custard says:

    Until I got my company pension in May this year, I had lived on benefit for about 15 years. Yes, it was a struggle at times – but I managed well enough by prioritising, deciding what was important to me and either doing without the rest or settling for reduced quality to save money. Exactly what the limited income gets spent on is up to the individual, of course, some may prefer to have the latest designer clothing rather than do as I did, rummage in the charity shops, but if that’s your priority, you have to accept that you’ll do without something else – you cannot (or, at least, should not) expect to have *everything*.

    The basic idea of the welfare state was to cover the essentials – if you have a roof over your head, sufficient food and heating fuel and something better than rags to wear, that’s about it – anything else is a bonus.

    I find the idea that those who, like myself until recently, are not working for one reason or another, are entitled to the sort of lifestyle that many workers at the lower end of the pay scale cannot afford, quite ludicrous. As has been said by previous posters, if that’s the case, why bother working?

  6. Avatar sentup.custard says:

    “those who, like myself until recently, are not working”
    Sorry – badly worded! I didn’t mean that I’d gone back to work – just that I’m now better off thanks to the company pension, so no longer in the really low income bracket.

  7. Avatar Timeless says:

    still seems that many of the above think its so much better on benefits.. while it maybe true one gets a roof over their heads and £71 a week its not that easy to live on.

    that being said with changes in the pipelines aka the bedroom tax (£14 per empty bedroom) not to mention under 25s will loose housing benefit means allot of ppl will hit the streets soon. truth be told l was on benefits up til last year getting sanctioned for a job l never took.. now to make my point everyone still thinks its better to be on benefits.. its not true if l didnt have such an understanding family ld be on the streets what originally should be a lifeline has turned into a culture of sanctions and those who now need that lifeline are being turned away and those that do get access to benefits now have to do mandatory work schemes leaving them little to no time to actually look for work which means ideas such as these at least allow them to look online.

    suffice to say everyone here thinks that benefits and claiming means they are sitting at home all day.. ask yourselves how many actually are working but earning so little they also have to rely on benefits to top up their wages because not all those claiming dont work as many cant even afford a roof over their heads on just their own wages.

  8. Avatar cyclope says:

    It’s this government of buffoons. that has created this hate the people on benefits culture, Because they are an easy target,What about the migrants who are now also claiming benefits because they are no longer working for peanuts, shame they didn’t think like that before they even came here,
    Then there’s the health tourists who are costing the tax payer a dam sight more than those on benefits, but so far nothing is being done to stop people who have never lived in this country getting free medical treatment both here and in eu member states by using EHIC cards that they are not entitled to use ,
    There are several other big drains on the public purse, but lets pick on those who claim benefits

  9. Avatar captain.cretin says:

    @ Timeless, I dont drink, I dont smoke and I dont go to clubs or eat out, yet I still cannot afford or justify running an iPhone, iPad, £1,000 baby buggy or a car.

    A single person on the dole doesnt get much in the way of cash, but when multiple children are involved, and you start to add up all the “extras”, like cheap/free housing, free dental and prescriptions, cheap entry for the gym/pool (locally at least), reduced/free council tax etc; that £71 looks more and more like pocket money; 20 years ago, my ex was bragging she got £1000 per month in benefits, I STILL dont earn that much after tax!!!
    Even with my pregnant wife working a few hours a week, we are struggling to pay off the enormous electric bill my son left us with last winter.

    1. Avatar Timeless says:

      granted having kids used to be one way of playing the system but thats not likely to happen any more with the caps they plan to introduce, problem is while some reforms were needed but some of the ideas are going to far.

      one of the governments new press releases will see G4S and workfare companies being brought into the home as social police for kids who have step parents and a parent out of work in order to make sure kids are growing up properly and even for IDS thats a step beyond what l believe is acceptable.

  10. Avatar Bob says:

    Yet another Freebie toencourage people not to work. Figures now show that the majorityof people on the UK average income would be better off on benefits. It is just madness. I suggest that they make Free Broadband available at Job Centres but only allowing access to work related sites

  11. Avatar Hull_lad says:

    Not as hair-brained as it may seem…

    Current interactions with those in social housing cost local authorities millions. Drop in centres, customer service staff, etc. Our local council estimate each interaction with someone wanting to make manual payments, or looking for advice, signing on etc at drop in centres cost upwards of £20 each, taking into account the cost of the building, and the staff etc.

    Moving these interactions online would, in fact, save a lot of money (admittedly at the expense of public sector jobs etc) £12 a month for a basic broadband service, for example (we’re not talking the latest FTTH unlimited service here!) seems to make sense, PROVIDING the end users know how to do it. Training is a whole other ball game.

    Superficially it’s another frustration for the tax-payer, although in reality, it could end up being a great way of saving money.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      So claimant has a quick check to see what job they don’t want to do on their free broadband and then just surf / Facebook all day whilst public sector workers that provided a service get the boot and join the dole queue. Someone has to work you know it doesn’t grow on trees

    2. Avatar Hull_lad says:

      @FibreFred, There are far more people on social welfare than the unemployed, and far more different transactions taking place than simply ‘signing on’. There are wider economic benefits to the public sector associated with giving people free broadband.

      Local authorities are trying to automate as many old fashioned/cost-ineffective systems and processes as a means of reducing cost. Long term, that has a positive impact on the taxpayer, as the money saved is re-deployed elsewhere. These recipients won’t be getting a 100Mbps FTTH unlimted service; They’ll be getting an ADSL/ADSL2+, capped service with restricted access to certain sites, no doubt with a default council run portal to all applicable services, made far more easy to deploy with the PSN strategy.

      It will not be long before broadband is indeed classed as a utility, at which point councils will be obliged to provide some minimum service. I think rather than jump on the stereotypical Daily-Mail-reader bandwagon, people need to take a more measured view of this type of initiative. Whoever is in power, cost savings need to be made, and this could be an innovative example of such.

    3. Avatar FibreFred says:

      But why couldn’t they access these services at a government office, jobcentre/library that sort of thing?

      I can see benefits of the service, but I’m not happy with it being gifted

    4. Avatar Hull_lad says:

      @FibreFred, yes, that could be an option. I guess it would be a case of working out which was most economical; keeping these buildings open, or giving everyone a broadband service.

      My own view (from being unemployed for a month or two a few years back)is that jobcentres for the main-part are ineffective – I got back to work, fortunately very quickly, via recruitment agencies. The job-centre felt, quite frankly, like a process people went through to collect benefits, not a means of getting back to work. As for public libraries, they are increasingly becoming irrelevant, as unfortunate as this may sound. My personal view is that we as a nation will get more benefit from getting everybody online, bridging the gap in digital skills and driving a new type of economy forward.

      However, it’s all ifs and buts right now! Politicians are great at soundbites that, as someone has already pointed out, get shoved aside once seats have been secured. We live in hope!

    5. Avatar Timeless says:

      to my knowledge its not exactly going to be gifted in the sense that it will just be free, supposedly there will be a small fee for it tho obviously that will come out of the same pocket as likely part of rent costs from what lve seen at least.

  12. Avatar Gareth says:

    That’s right, give the Jeremy Kyle generation another reason to stay at home and not work! Let’s play on Facebook all day, it’s free!

  13. Avatar Bob2002 says:

    Median UK household income for 2010-2011 was £419/week(IFS figures), only delusional Daily Mail readers would swap that for a life on benefits.

    1. Avatar Bob says:

      Want to hazard a guess at what the median household net income of families living on benefit is including the value of benefits in kind?

    2. Avatar Bob2002 says:


      Not a guess, no, however if you have a credible source then post away.

  14. Avatar cyclope says:

    If you are single,have no children,the local councils around this part of the country will pay a maximum of £96 per week towards rent add £70.00 per week Job seekers allowance , Such a lot of money, better off than in work, this is reality how much they get, Could you live any reasonable standard of life on this amount? Oh and those on the sick (not registered disabled) who claim incapacity benefit,soon to be ESA (but not if ATOS have their way) get a whopping £35.00 more per week, but have to contribute towards their rent and council tax, so in real terms that £35 can be a lot less

    Then there’s the these people don’t want to work, Funny that most who i know do want to work, problem is there is no jobs around that they could actually do,
    There are however quite a few jobs that would mean that they could be worse off (after taking away travel expenses ect)or maybe £10 better off, the real issue is that they are not being given any real incentive to work, The number of jobs advertised is being distorted by Agencies with offering employment that doesn’t actually exist,This country is still heading downwards

  15. Avatar zemadeiran says:

    This is all good and well….

    The REAL reason for our present downward spiral is dwindling cheap energy which is directly related to economic growth.

    As we all know, oil reserves peaked years ago and the north sea fields which have provided the UK with a decent income are all but used up. The majority of people in the UK are becoming energy poor and this is only increasing, resulting in 50.000+ oaps dying every year from lack of resources to pay for heating.

    UK plc does not give a shit, as the pension burden is reduced by these deaths.

    Economists fully understand that an economy NEEDS a percentage of the population to be unemployed in order to provide a floating reserve of workers as and when required. This of course has it’s costs to maintain and manage for the economies benefit.

    The country therefore requires an unemployed pool to draw from when needed, if maintenance cost is an issue look at reducing expenditure elsewhere such as military spending, white elephant projects and MP’s expenses…oops.

    Housing benefit is a 200 Billion + drain on the public purse so this needs to be tackled first which modern energy efficient social housing run on a non profit transparent basis. The Tories introduced “right to buy” which resulted in a massive loss of housing stock and the resultant property bubble.

    If you want to live in the UK and benefit from it’s environment then it is only right that you give something in return. I am sure that the majority of unemployed people would give anything to live a decent dignified productive life without being constantly told that they are the scum of the earth, good for nothing and a drain on society.

    Maybe instead of stamping our fellow Brits into the ground we should focus on more pressing issue’s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4ZcTwsubzk

    1. Avatar Timeless says:

      well put, tho l do wish to add with growing youth unemployment there is another issue.. or at least put in perspective “fuel added to the fire”.. most of the youth of today is sheltered in the fact that back in previous generations different ethics were involved.

      my parents generation knew the value of a hard days work the youth of today was never taught that in the physical sense and had allot less expected of them as they were growing up, this coupled with the fact that there are so many unemployed and not enough jobs to go around and are left to sign on, they are getting called scrounging scum without being given a chance!! yet our countries youth are being called worthless (along with many others who uptil they lost their jobs), and lm betting many here have no idea how demoralising that is.. how ashamed one feels to be unemployed sending off 100s of applications a week and the few employers who do get back to you telling you that you arent even qualified to stack shelves unless you do it for free via workfare.

      seems most here believe The Sun’s propaganda of how the government is making savings on welfare.. but at what cost? is it right to discriminate against everyone who claims a benefit and call them scum not even taking the time to understand that our countries disabled are suffering and the youth and older generations that are trying damn hard to find work are being told they are worthless from both the general public and those in parliament? just doesnt sit right with me especially when doing something as little as posing as a monkey at a football game can be seen as racism and get someone put in prison (a recent story l caught on the BBC).

  16. Avatar cyclope says:

    “just doesnt sit right with me especially when doing something as little as posing as a monkey at a football game can be seen as racism and get someone put in prison (a recent story l caught on the BBC).”

    I bet if the person it was aimed at wasn’t a very affluent famous footballer, no one would of gone to jail, let alone been arrested

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