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UK Government Seeks to End Digital Apartheid of Social Housing with Broadband

Posted: 08th Dec, 2011 By: MarkJ
westminster_uk.jpgworld wide webThe UK governments Housing Minister, Grant Shapps (Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield), has pledged to end the "digital apartheid" that has 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.

Shapps, whom describes internet connectivity as being the "fourth essential utility", wants local councils and housing associations to explore a number of potential solutions to the problem.

The minister said that he would ideally like to see new affordable homes being built 'broadband-ready' and wants internet access to be a part of the "standard rent package". Landlords are also being encouraged to put more of their services online (e.g. bill payments), which could allegedly help to cut communications costs by up to £340m.

The UK Housing Minister, Grant Shapps MP, said:

"In a country where the majority of people can apply for a job or even just buy a loaf of bread at the click of a button, it's no longer acceptable that so many of the most vulnerable people in our society are deprived of something most of us now take for granted in our daily lives.

I'm calling on every social landlord to look long and hard at how they can help their tenants get online, from offering networks of public internet cafes to providing the technology to log on at home.

Internet connectivity is considered by many to be the fourth essential utility, and should be a necessity, not a luxury. Government is committed to helping demolish this unacceptable digital divide that is blocking social mobility for millions of council tenants."

Crucially no new money appears to have been proposed for any of this, which means that Snapps remarks alone are unlikely to produce any radical change beyond what already exists. Likewise it's worth remembering that some of those who are not yet online would be happy to continue going without the internet.
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