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19% in Rural North West England Struggle with Internet Affordability

Monday, June 27th, 2022 (12:38 pm) - Score 456
Old footbridge and  traditional Cotswold cottages,   Bibury,  England, UK.

A recent study by researchers at Lancaster University has found that 28% of the population in rural North West England are not confident in completing key tasks online (e.g. applying for jobs) and 19% found either their PC, broadband, smartphone or mobile data unaffordable – rising to 36% among households with an income of under £20k.

The survey, which was conducted with over 500 rural residents living in the North West (i.e. a fairly small sample size), also discovered that 13% of the sample have poor quality or no Wi-Fi and 1 in 5 have no mobile broadband connection.

NOTE: 95% of the sample had access to the internet through “broadband or WiFi“.

However, lack of confidence and skills were found to be a greater barrier to accessing digital services than connectivity. Some 21% said they had no confidence in skills to use the internet for work or study (rising to 38% among those with low incomes), while 23% had no confidence in holding online video calls (44% for low income users) and 26% had no confidence in looking or applying for jobs online (42% for low income users).

Meanwhile, for those that had access to an internet connection and a related device (computer, smartphone etc.), 73% reported there is a strong enough signal for them to use mobile broadband, while 71% of those with WiFi at home (broadband) described the connection as good quality. But 9% reported poor quality WiFi (this could be either an issue with wireless coverage or the broadband side) and 5% didn’t have any WiFi.

Ben Harrison, Director of the Work Foundation, said:

“People living in rural areas tend to face higher costs for fast broadband connectivity, which can be enough to deter some from engaging with the online world completely and this could worsen as families struggle to make ends meet during the cost of living crisis. If Government ambitions to Level Up the UK are to become a reality, clearly more needs to be done to provide people living in the rural North West with the digital skills and access they need.”

The report then goes on to make some perfectly reasonable recommendations around all this.

Recommendations for local authorities and Government

Ofcom to ensure providers openly disclose the full range of charges included within mobile or broadband packages and ensure this information reaches vulnerable consumers in clearly understandable terms

➤ Help to ensure claimants of Universal Credit know they may be eligible for social tariffs which allow individuals to benefit from broadband connection at a reduced cost

➤ Job search platforms, recruiters and local bodies such as councils and LEPs to work in partnership to build confidence among rural residents in searching and applying for jobs online, through outreach activities in local settings and at home

➤ Local authorities to provide educational outreach to rural residents at the greatest risk of digital poverty, to equip them with the key skills needed to search and apply for jobs online

➤ Local authorities to collaborate with third parties to undertake peer-to-peer outreach to boost confidence in accessing digital services, using intermediaries and trusted individuals and via accessible community settings

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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.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Gary H says:

    Quite odd to see 5% with a connection not having Wifi. Sure there routers out there without but generally not the kind of ones your regular homeowner buys or was provided by the ISP.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      It’s unclear from the context whether this could be referencing the 5% who had no broadband or WiFi in the sample size. But some other people may be connecting via a third-party WiFi network (e.g. neighbours, public hotspots etc.), so circumstances do vary for a minority, it’s not always WiFi as a reference to your own home network.

    2. Gary H says:

      Aye Mark, I suppose as in all surveys unless the questions are well structured, as you say you end up with say 10% of people have no Internet and also add that 10% to people who have no wifi which makes it hard to pull out specifics.
      95
      % have access through broadband or Wifi doesnt really help much in that respect either, given a section of our society think they’re the same thing and that fibre is made of copper.

  2. David Bland says:

    Didn’t know they’d moved Bibury in the Cotswolds to the North West…..

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