6G Internet for Everyone initiative – 100th free connection

6g Internet 100th family connected freeMarch has seen the 6G Internet for everyone initiative hit an important landmark.

100 new free connections have now been installed in homes and community venues throughout the Blackburn area.

As numbers continue to grow, we received a timely reminder this week of just how relevant each individual connection can be.

Back in May 2020, we were asked by a local charity to connect a family that they were helping.

This is the feedback that we received from the family.

“The installation was great and straightforward. The workers that came were very polite and professional and all in all everything was quickly done.”

“….. without it my 10-year-old daughter would have seriously struggled with schoolwork, keeping in touch with family and friends and playing online her games in her free time.”

“I’ve been shielding for nearly 12 months now and, without this contact with the outside world and being able to online bank and shop online, I would have seriously struggled to manage, stay safe and stay sane !!!!”

Ian Clough, who coordinates the 6Gi Internet for everyone initiative said, “It was great to receive this positive feedback. It really emphasises how important a home internet connection is. Not just during lockdown but as an ongoing resource. Cost and long-term contract should never be a barrier to being able to get online at home.”

For more information on the 6Gi Internet for everyone initiative, please contact Ian Clough

M: 07854 604944 E: ian.clough@6gdsi.co.uk

6G Internet Teams Up with Local Charity

6G Internet Teams Up with Local Charity

We have been working with local schools since before the pandemic started, as we recognised the importance of internet at home for children.

Offering home broadband to families in need has always been an important part of our ethos but it’s not just children we want to help. Having worked with charities such as Age UK and local community projects, our aim is to stop digital exclusion, which is why we have committed to giving away 20% of our network for free, to causes and families.

When the pandemic hit, we knew home internet was more important than ever. Homeschooling is near impossible without access to the online resources children need. 

In January we heard about The Computers for Kids Appeal that had been set up by a local Blackburn charity called Secret Santa. Through donations of laptops and PCs, their plan was to refurbish, update and give away the devices for free to children on free school meals.

When we contacted them, they had already donated over 50 devices as part of their appeal. We explained to the charity that we would like to help them in their mission and offer a free broadband connection alongside the devices.

We knew that having the tools to learn was a massive step forward for these children but without internet they would face further barriers.

We are now working together with Secret Santa to help as many families and their children as possible to get connected and to continue to learn at home.

At 6G Internet, we are all immensely proud at just what we have achieved so far and how much of a difference we have made to these children and their family’s lives.

Who knows what the future holds? What we do know is that we will continue to try and make a difference and make life a little easier for those that need it.

6Gi – Internet for Everyone – Preston.

Preston, LancashireTo date, the 6Gi, internet for everyone initiative has been focussed largely in the Blackburn and Darwen areas, where we are working with schools, charities and community groups, to help people get online.

As the 6Gi network continues to grow, we are now in a position to launch the initiative in neighbouring Preston.

Already we have created links with the Preston based social landlord, Onward Homes and three local schools.

Scott Brerton, Social Investment Specialist at Onward Homes, observed that,

“Having access to the internet is something that most of us take for granted but for some families, it’s simply unaffordable. Working with 6Gi has enabled a number of families across our neighbourhoods to have free internet access. This, alongside the laptop lending libraries we’ve worked together on with some local schools, has enabled many young people in the area to have equality of opportunity, being able to access online learning during the current pandemic.”

In addition to the work with individual families, we have also provided free connectivity for some local community centres, including the Foxton Centre on Knowsley Street.

The centre’s Team Manager, Lara Budd, acknowledged the value of the support from the 6Gi internet for everyone initiative.

“The free Wi-Fi connection at The Foxton Centre, Preston, means that the homeless community and other vulnerable groups can access essential services on the internet. It will also make it easier for people who are experiencing a tough time to stay in contact with friends and family. The level of service we received from 6Gi at the centre was excellent and installation was very straight forward.”

Ian Clough, who leads the 6Gi internet for everyone initiative, is keen to develop new links in the Preston area.

“As in Blackburn and Darwen up to 20% of our network is being made available to support local digital inclusion work, I would urge any Preston based organisation with an interest in helping people to get online, to get in touch with me.” (ian.clough@6gdsi.co.uk)

6G Internet Help School Children to access the Internet from Home

Making sure that all school aged children, in areas where we work, can access the internet at home is a key aim of the 6G Internet “internet for everyone” initiative.

6G Internet for everyone

For too many families on lower or uncertain incomes, cost and long-term contracts have been barriers that have proved impossible to overcome.

The pandemic has shown us all how much we rely on the internet for so many things nowadays, not least of which is education. That some children do not have that access seems plainly wrong and unfair.

6G Internet is therefore committed to working with schools to identify families needing help and to provide them with a free basic home connection.

We are currently working with Roe Lee Park Primary School and Brookhouse Primary School in Blackburn.

Both recognised how important it is for all children to have internet access at home.

Laura Butterworth, Deputy Headteacher at Roe Lee Park, commented, “When classes have to isolate for a fortnight, without internet access, that is two weeks of their learning completely lost, extending the education gap even further between those families who can afford to access live lessons from their child’s teacher every day and those who are not in this position.”

Rifat Rasul, the Home/School Liaison Officer at, Brookhouse Primary School, echoed this, “Internet access is paramount in the current climate and even more important for children’s education and learning throughout the pandemic.”

Both Laura and Rifat acknowledged that the partnership with 6G Internet has had a positive outcome.

Laura observed that, “This is having a considerable impact on the children’s learning, as we can now confidently say that all of our children, across our entire school, will be learning every single day, whether or not they are able to be physically in school.” 

Rifat added that, “As a school, it is important that we support all children with their education and 6G Internet has been instrumental in providing a fantastic service.”

Ian Clough who leads the 6G Internet “internet for everyone” initiative said, “As well as providing the connection, we try to make sure that the family can also get hold of a suitable device, like a recycled laptop or tablet, by drawing in help from other organisations. For example, in Blackburn we have worked with Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, in Preston with the social landlord, Onward Homes and, in many instances, schools themselves have been able to source equipment.

If you are a school that could benefit from the “internet for everyone” initiative or you can support the project by providing laptops or tablets, please contact:

Ian Clough

Ian.clough@6gdsi.co.uk

St Silas is an iconic Victorian church over-looking Blackburn town centre.

St Silas Church Tower

Over the years, St Silas Church has seen many initiatives to modernise it, with the installation of central heating, kitchen, toilets, modern lighting and the creation of an open community space at the back of the church, over twenty years ago, all of which presented challenges at the time.

The latest challenge has been to install Wi-Fi in the Church.

The church has always aspired to be a community hub where local groups can meet and local community agencies provide support to their users, as well as providing spiritual and pastoral support to the care homes and individuals who are house-bound in the area.

Like many churches St Silas has tried to make the most of using online technology during the pandemic but the lack of Wi-Fi within the Church was a big limitation.

6G Internet are a local Internet Service Provider. Over the last year or so they have been working with schools and charities in the area to set up free home connections for families struggling to get online. Through one of those charities, Age UK, 6G Internet were introduced to Sheelagh Aston, the Priest in charge, at St Silas Church.

Over the summer, the Church leadership team, along with Jill Cowgill of architects NWDC, worked hard to overcome the challenges inherent when working in a Grade II listed building and, in October the installation was successfully completed.

6G Internet Receiver

Both installation and ongoing usage has been provided entirely free of charge by 6G Internet as part of their “internet for everyone” initiative.

Sheelagh is excited by the new opportunities that online connectivity opens up “We will be able to live stream our Sunday Service to create an inclusive bond between those who are in church and those at home thus breaking down the feelings of loneliness and IT group is already experimenting with online training sessions which could be broadcast from church to remote participants”

There is a strong bond between the Church and local schools and Sheelagh added, “We are now working with our schools to explore how short virtual tours or lessons can be streamed to them at a time when visits are difficult.”

Ian Clough who leads the 6G Internet digital inclusion projects said, “the work with St Silas is a new strand of our “internet for everyone” initiative. For over a year now we have worked with schools and charities, aiming to make sure that everyone in Blackburn and Darwen has access to a free basic internet connection at home. The new opportunities created by connecting community buildings like St Silas are really exciting and I believe that their hard work has created a template that others can follow.”

Contact

Rev Sheelagh Aston

Priest in Charge

St Silas, Blackburn

stsilasblackburn@gmail.com

Healthy Churches, Transforming Communities

Diocese of Blackburn

Ian Clough

6G Internet

Ian.clough@6gdsi.co.uk

Helping Age UK to Bridge the Digital Divide

Age UK Blackburn and DarwenAge UK are committed to providing life enhancing services to older people in the community.

Befriending services, advice services and neighbourly volunteering are just a few examples of the fantastic help they provide for the elderly.

Their digital buddies support older people in becoming more tech savvy, which has never been more relevant and important as now, during the current pandemic.

With this in mind, 6G Internet identified a way to help older people who are digitally excluded and missing out on this valuable support.

John Verity, Age UK Blackburn and Darwen Digital Inclusion Development Manager said;

Lack of affordable broadband is one of the main factors that leads to digital exclusion amongst older people. Working with 6G Internet as partners has enabled Age UK Blackburn with Darwen to help older people to get connected free of charge. This allows them to experience the many benefits of digital technology such as keeping in touch with friends and family, shopping online and using health services online

According to the Office for National Statistics, over two thirds of the digitally excluded are over 65 years of age.

6G Internet believe there should be Internet for All and work tirelessly to achieve this by donating 20% of internet bandwidth to disadvantaged and socially excluded groups.

Many essential services are now carried out online, such as ordering prescriptions and applying for benefits. Older people without internet access, are being left behind and are at huge disadvantage compared with their online peers.

6G Internet’s free internet, along with the IT courses provided by Age UK, mean that people have access to the necessary resources and don’t need to feel out of their depth online.

Once connected, Social Networks become within reach. This means the elderly can stay in touch with loved ones, swap photos and Social Isolation can feel that little bit less lonely.

6G Internet are committed to bridging the digital divide and look forward to a future where there is 6G Internet for everyone.

Blackburn is lighting up with ultra-fast internet

It’s been a couple of months since we launched our ultra-fast internet service in Blackburn and it’s fair to say we’ve made a few headlines.

Quite

A

Few

I think that one reason we’ve had such a good reception is the lack of service that a lot of people feel they get from the ‘big’ ISPs.

We’ve heard from residents who had previously bought the fastest, most expensive broadband in their area, yet still didn’t get the advertised speed with any kind of regularity.

Part of this is down to technology and part of it is down to cost. Even the biggest internet service providers are struggling to roll-out ultra-fast broadband with any consistency.

If you live outside of big cities or in areas that aren’t chock-full of double garages and golf courses, it can easily feel like you’ve been overlooked. But we’re changing things.

We believe Blackburn will become the blueprint for how broadband will be delivered in the future. For the first time, ultra-fast broadband will be available to an entire town for a price that is lower than what most people already pay for their standard internet.

And speaking of blueprints, we are now rolling out the network to other towns, so keep an eye out for news in your area. In the meantime, check if you’re eligible by entering your postcode here.

 

Digital inclusion in the spotlight

As more and more services move online, digital inclusion is a problem that is likely to become more pronounced for a significant section of the UK population. That’s because while the majority of Britain takes the internet for granted, there are still 11 million people lacking basic online skills.

According to Ofcom, if you are elderly, a low-earner, unemployed or live in social housing, you are less likely to be able to access the internet from your home or have the digital skills to take advantage of being online.

Thankfully, this issue has been given oxygen by ITV’s Tonight programme, who visited a project that we have been involved in with Leeds City Council to combat digital exclusion by connecting two of the city’s tower blocks to free broadband.

The partnership is part of the council’s 100% Digital Leeds programme aimed at giving every resident the access and skills to make the most out of the internet.

Leeds City Council estimates 38% of its 57,000 social housing residences don’t have permanent access to the internet. As part of the 14 month trial, we connected 160 social housing residences to free wireless broadband. It is streamed to the Grayson Crest and Clyde Grange tower blocks via radio antenna and offers 5 Mbps broadband residents to log on whenever they want.

It resulted in some absolutely brilliant feedback.

Grayson Crest resident Oliver had been searching for a job for three years without an internet connection. Four days after he was connected to 6G internet, he secured a job he found on Gumtree as a warehouse forklift driver.

He told us: “It’s the difference between being on £46 a week benefit and earning a good wage. £46 just goes in a day – I couldn’t do anything with my kids. Now I can take them swimming or to the seaside. I’ve started saving money for a better car and I can meet my friends without worrying about money.

“Without an internet connection I was searching for a job by buying newspapers or going to the library. After three years it gets disheartening – you just give up. Phone credit wasn’t cheap – if you want unlimited internet you’re talking £30 a month, so it was even difficult being able to talk to friends on social media. Now I can use my laptop at home. It’s made a big difference.”

Our partner at Leeds City Council, tenant engagement manager Ian Montgomery, said: “We know people suffer from a lower quality of life as a result of being unable to access the social, educational, financial, recreational and health benefits of being online.

“By connecting these flats to the internet and supporting people to learn how to use the technology, we are helping residents to find improved deals and save money, apply for jobs, manage finances and maintain contact with family and friends. It also helps the council to be more efficient, as residents are able to access online services to claim benefits, report issues and make payments.”

We are very proud of our work to connect more people to a better quality of life through free broadband. If you’re part of a local authority and interested in partnering with us, you can make an enquiry here.

The public sector must start working together to address digital inclusion

Poverty costs everyone a lot of money – from the families themselves via the poverty premium, to health and social care services, schools and housing. In fact, the impact of families living in poverty affects every part of the public sector, taking up 25% of health spending, more than a third of the housing budget and 60% of children’s social care expenditure.

A 2016 report by Heriot Watt and Loughborough Universities found that dealing with the consequences of poverty costs the public purse £78 billion a year – that’s £1,200 for every person in the UK. While it falls to the whole of society to take action to address the underlying causes, it is also the duty of each public service to manage the consequences of poverty as effectively and efficiently as possible. This means reducing its impact on families while also finding ways to reduce the impact on each service’s budget, allowing it to free valuable funds to help more people.

The allure of digitising services

The squeeze on public finances has run parallel to the boom in technology, with every organisation now searching for digital solutions to help improve the service they provide and save money at the same time. Unsurprisingly, each public service is focused on solving its own problems, but this has led to the mistaken impression that each problem is unique to them.

The NHS is continually exploring ways in which new technology can benefit its patients. Telehealth, for example, involves the use of health technology to monitor patients’ conditions remotely, meaning they are no longer required to stay in hospital and can live more independent lives at home. An NHS telehealth trial in Kent was found to reduce hospital admissions by 50% for the disease that was monitored, while home visits were also cut by 80%, resulting in savings of £1.2 million.

In a previous post, we mentioned a number of ways in which social housing providers are looking to digitise, including using artificial intelligence and big data to improve services to their tenants. Similarly, local authorities are searching for new ways to engage residents through digital services, reducing expenditure while allowing users to access adult and children’s social care services via apps, online portals and digital self-assessment forms.

The problem of digital exclusion

The focus on digital helps to cut costs and offers users the chance to engage on their own terms, but organisations are relying on the assumption that their users will have the means to access digital services. This is far less likely when dealing with families in poverty: Ofcom figures show that working-age people living in the poorest households are three times as likely to not have internet access compared to the national average. This leaves a sizeable portion of deprived service users at a further disadvantage: unable to benefit from digital services with alternative options dwindling as the channel shift picks up pace.

The point here is that digital exclusion affects every public organisation that has a duty of care to its service users. More often than not the responsibility for ensuring everyone can access online services falls to landlords or an individual department within a local authority, but this needs to change.

Instead of focusing on solving universal problems such as digital exclusion in silos, public sector organisations will achieve a far greater impact by pooling their respective resources, expertise and capabilities.

The causes of poverty cannot be addressed by a single charity, organisation, business or community, and neither can the consequences.