In today’s digital age, the internet is part of our daily lives. From accessing essential services to staying connected with friends and family, it’s a crucial tool for people of all ages and backgrounds.
But for many people in the UK, internet access is not affordable or accessible, leading to digital exclusion and poorer economic outcomes.
Digital exclusion in the UK
Free internet access is critical to reducing digital exclusion in the UK. Digital exclusion refers to the gap between those with access to digital technology and those without access.
Studies have shown that a lack of internet access is linked to fewer economic outcomes. For example, people who can’t get online struggle to access job opportunities, education, and other critical services, including income support and other benefits.
Digital exclusion can also lead to social isolation and poorer health outcomes, including an increased likelihood of developing mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Some studies have linked digital exclusion to shorter life expectancy.
The impact of digital exclusion
Here are some statistics to illustrate the impact of digital exclusion in the UK:
- According to a 2020 report by Ofcom, around 1.5 million households in the UK do not have access to the internet.
- In a survey conducted by the Good Things Foundation, 22% of respondents said they had been unable to access a service they needed because they did not have internet.
- A 2021 report by the Centre for Social Justice found that 4.5 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills.
- According to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, people without internet access are more likely to be unemployed, live in poverty, and have lower levels of education.
Digital exclusion and the rising cost of living
The rising cost of living in the UK is making it increasingly difficult for people to afford internet access.
According to telecoms regulator Ofcom, more than 9.1 million UK households (32%) are having difficulties paying their broadband bills.
Around 17% of households are cutting back on other essential spending, such as food and clothing, to afford broadband services; that’s four times the percentage of people doing so in June 2021.
Helen Milner is the chief executive of The Good Things Foundation, a UK-based charity that promotes digital inclusion
“Over one in 20 households have no internet at all, either fixed line or mobile,” said Helen Milner. “I’ve met a young woman who wept because we gave her a £10 top-up because it meant she could contact her mum in Ireland. She had two young kids and had no other way of contacting their grandmother.”
Why 6G Internet is giving away free broadband
The 6G Internet for everyone campaign is based on the idea that access to the internet is a fundamental human right. We believe everyone should have equal access to the tools and resources they need to thrive in today’s digital world, even when they can’t afford the monthly bills.
Through this important campaign, we give away 20% of our network for free to schools, charities, and community organisations in every town and area we build in.
We’ve provided free internet to Age UK. The charity uses our free connections to run digital skills classes for older people.
Our free broadband connections at the Foxtown Centre in Preston are helping the city’s homeless and vulnerable groups access financial and health services.
And we recently installed free broadband connections in ten homeless pods in Blackburn.
“It’s a great initiative,” said Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. “It will allow those living in the shelters to get online and access the relevant documents, learn new skills, and send emails to help them on their way to improving their lives.
“Digital exclusion is a new form of social inequality,” says 6G Internet Digital Inclusion Manager Tara Murray. “Those who don’t have access to the internet will be increasingly left behind in education, employment, and society. The internet is not a luxury anymore; it’s a necessity.”
“And that’s why we will always give away free internet. It’s our commitment to bridging the digital divide in local communities, ensuring everyone can access digital spaces and develop the skills and support networks they need to thrive.”
Click here to learn more about the 6G Internet for everyone initiative.