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UK Broadband Digital Divide Widens

Posted: 18th Jan, 2006 By: MarkJ
Point Topic’s latest research suggests that the gap between broadband haves and have-nots may be getting wider. Consumer research, based on 2,000 face-to-face interviews, showed that broadband density for poorer families is lower than had been assumed.

Point Topic’s earlier analysis suggested that some areas outside the South East – for example in the prosperous areas of South Wales – were up among the leaders for broadband density. This was particularly due to the success of the cable companies in selling broadband to their existing customers.

Several factors have now changed this view. DSL (ADSL etc.) is growing faster than cable modems, which is reducing the advantage of the cable TV areas.

Most important of all, the publication of DSL numbers for different regions by BT has showed that there are big differences in density between different parts of the country which are independent of social factors or cable competition. Rural areas often have lower density than the suburbs even where broadband is equally available. Some parts of the country, such as Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the North-east of England, just seem to have less interest in the Internet than others.

As far as Internet density as a whole is concerned, the ‘Digital Divide’ is less deep than it is for broadband only, but follows the same pattern. As more and more families migrate from dial-up to broadband, having Internet access will become increasingly the same thing as having broadband

The Labour Government is committed to eliminating the divide, making sure that “the whole of society can experience the benefits of the Internet.” One key step is to make the means getting online available to all, so one promise in its Election Manifesto was "By 2006 every school supported to offer all pupils access to computers at home."

The results of Point Topic’s research show there is a long way to go to achieve the goal of Internet access for all. Britain’s most advanced boroughs are already around the density levels achieved by the most advanced nations – such as South Korea, the Netherlands and Denmark. Overcoming the Digital Divide will mean bringing the whole country up to that level, and higher.
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