Research has shown that young people in deprived areas have a difficult time getting online and staying connected. Schools’ IT systems are also lacking due to poor design and lack of funds. Colleges, too, have a hard time managing their IT systems.
Many people who live in deprived areas have to pay high prices for subscriptions that only offer a few kilobytes of Internet access, which is provided by worn out copper broadband services. The access is slow and undependable. This is happening across many rural areas, but also major urban areas, too.
On the other hand, parents living in more affluent areas are paying the same prices and receiving high-speed fibre access, which tends to be more dependable and faster.
No matter what, a child’s Internet access could still be a problem, due to where they live. If there’s a large business in the area pushing for better Internet access, then everyone around benefits. However, if there’s no large company demanding better networks, then the surrounding areas could face a lack of decent Internet access.
Labour has promised to fix this situation by providing universal free high-speed broadband. If so, they would truly change society by giving everyone equal access.
The commitment isn’t just for an election draw; they truly want to see everyone have equal access to high-speed Internet access. Why? For example, when young people in deprived areas view the Internet, most often on their mobile phones, they see ads for betting and burgers. However, affluent kids see ads for university open days and sports equipment. This is the digital divide Labour wants to conquer.
Other examples come from the US. There may be students attending the same course at the same college; however, they live in different areas. As a result, if they go online to check on course books, the students in more affluent areas will see higher prices on the books. In fact, the same retailers can charge students different prices for the same book, based on where the students live. To top that, if you’re poor, the retailer may even charge you more.
It works like this. Algorithms are used to determine how far a student lives from a mobile phone mast or telephone exchange, if the student is accessing the Internet by phone, copper or fibre broadband, the student’s geolocation of their IP address, and also the money value and age of the device the student is using. The student it more likely to pay higher prices on a routine basis if they live a long way from an older telephone exchange, and they’re using an older device.
Labour wants to standardize broadband services, similar to the way utilities such as electricity, gas and water. Each of these comes out of a pipe at the same rate and to the same standards, no matter how much the customer pays. Labour believes Internet access should work in the same way. Internet access should also be consistent and available, just like the other utilities.
It’s not clear if Labour is planning on making broadband completely free for everyone or not. They have not shared this information. However, they may be on the right track of standardizing Internet access for everyone. Not only would access be more universal, more students would have better Internet access, giving those in deprived areas the same benefits as those living in more affluent areas.