Broadband – What To Do?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs companies including BT, Virgin and TalkTalk are criticised for substandard internet provision, our CEO Tim Leech sets out priorities for the development of broadband services.

‘Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about broadband provision in the media. This is due partly to BT’s full-year reports released last Thursday, and partly to the disconnect between projected goals – Communications minister Ed Vaizey claims the UK will be the European leader in broadband provision by 2015 – and the actual poor service experienced by many UK residents. Many people receive very slow broadband speeds, preventing them from doing things like watching BBC iPlayer or listening to digital radio online.

‘UK governments and big corporations sometimes seem to forget that our country has signed up to the UN Charter which states that communication and participation in society is a right, not a privilege. The UK’s inhabitants have a right to access good-quality internet connection, and plans for broadband should be made with this right in mind. Investing in even faster connections for those living in the middle of big cities should not take precedence over ensuring that the most rurally-located people can fight isolation by logging on. And for many disabled or housebound people, the internet is a vital tool in improving their independence, allowing them to stay in touch, order shopping and even work from home.

‘I think it’s our duty to stand up and say that there’s no point investing in broadband which does not provide equal access to people across the UK. Currently, those living in rural areas – such as myself – are disadvantaged severely when it comes to broadband provision. For some people, paying the high premiums to get a good service while living in a rural area is simply unaffordable.

‘Sometimes when I talk about broadband, people ask me what it has to do with WaveLength’s core mission. Aren’t we a TV and radio charity? Well, yes and no.

‘WaveLength’s remit is to relieve social isolation through media and communications. When our charity was established in 1939, there was no such thing as the Internet – and currently very few of our beneficiaries express a need for it. However, with 73 years of helping the vulnerable already under our belt, we see ourselves as a long-term charity, and the reality is that internet is only going to become more important. We must ensure that developments reach those who need them most.’

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