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Number of homes without internet access drops to 1.5m

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New figures from Ofcom suggest that the number of homes without any internet access has dropped over the past year to around 1.5 million.

That’s around 6% of homes in the UK, down from 11% before the pandemic.

The regulator said that the Covid-19 crisis had led to many more people “taking a leap of faith” into the online world, and highlighted that those least likely to have home access are those aged over 65, lower income households, and the most financially vulnerable.

The study found that almost half of adults who remain offline say they find the internet too complicated, or have no interest in it, while for a third a lack of equipment is a barrier. Around 60% of those with no access at home have asked someone to do something online for them over the past year, most commonly to help them make a purchase.

Yih-Choung Teh, strategy and research group director at Ofcom, said that for many the lockdowns of the last year will leave the legacy of improved online access and a better digital understanding, though for a significant minority it’s only served to “intensify the digital divide”.

He added: “We’ll continue to work with government and other partner organisations to promote digital literacy and ensure that people of all ages and backgrounds are empowered to share in the benefits of the internet.”

Going online in the pandemic

The pandemic has caused everyone to review their broadband needs, not just those who were offline before the virus reached our shores.

A study by Compare the Market last week found that the number of households opting for super-fast broadband deals has doubled over the last year.

However, while we have understandably been more reliant on our broadband providers during lockdowns, we haven’t enjoyed a particularly reliable standard of service. Research by Which? found that all too many of us have been ‘let down’ by our providers over this period, due to low speeds and more frequent drop-outs.

Include broadband in welfare schemes

Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at comparison site, said it may be surprising that so many homes still do not have access to the internet, and that this is concentrated among older people and those living below the poverty line.

He added that the government makes a lot of promises about delivering fast internet for everybody, but there is more it could do to help those who cannot afford it.

Howdle continued: “With the UN declaring internet access a basic human right all the way back in 2016, free broadband seems an obvious choice for inclusion in various welfare schemes – a move that would undoubtedly provide a boost those who are struggling financially, and help those who are unemployed to find and apply for work more easily.”

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