Feed the kids or pay the wifi - the dilemma facing millions caught in the digital divide

Sheffield, UK, Feb 16,2021 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

During Coronavirus, low-income families face unemployment, loss of earnings and lack of education. Add in the digital divide, and there’s a catastrophic impact looming on the horizon. (1)

So is there a solution? Compare Fibre a leading UK price comparison site thinks so and announces gathering momentum for £10/month affordable internet, aimed at children currently accessing free school meals. A Petition aimed at Government influencers has been launched, and an MP bill has been introduced to Parliament.

  • 1.7m children in poverty could benefit from a social broadband scheme which proposes unlimited, all-inclusive internet access for £10/month.
  • Darren Jones introduces the Internet Access Bill. This Ten Minute Rule Bill could extend access to an affordable social tariff for broadband to 1.4 million children on free school meals (2)
  • Compare Fibre launches online petition to lobby Boris Johnson and get affordable internet access to families of children on free school meals. (3)

Cambridge University researchers spoke to five primary school headteachers working in Manchester recently, who shared their childhood digital exclusion experiences. Several reported that only a handful of children are engaging in their teachers’ online learning in recent weeks. 

For some households, wifi is just too expensive, as one of the headteachers explained.

“I was talking to one family on Friday when I was delivering free meals, and I did take them a paper pack of work because Mum said it was pay the wifi or feed the children this month… Sometimes people can’t afford to pay for wifi,” he said.

Nathan Hill-Haimes, Co-Founder of price comparison website Compare Fibre, said,

“Why are we expecting lower-income households to choose whether to get a loaf of bread, or pint of milk, versus paying for wifi? It’s hard enough trying to keep safe, make ends meet and homeschool kids at the moment. As a nation, we should be supporting access to the internet, e-learning whatever it takes.

DCMS expects the private sector to step up and offer low-income households a viable option, but that’s just not happening.

For example, BT Basic has a low usage limit of 15GB; call charges are an exorbitant rate. There should be an all-inclusive unlimited broadband package on offer to kids who qualify for free school meals set at £10/month. The private sector will not fill this gap in the market, so we call on the Government to do more.

Marcus Rashford is right to demand lasting solutions for children in poverty; broadband is another critical consideration for these children. I’d love to get Marcus on board, with his support I think we could make a massive difference.” 

Danielle Harbord, Primary School Senior Leader, EYFS at Leeds Education Authority, said, “I am a teacher and see first hand the limitations to accessing education that poorer families are struggling with. It’s heartbreaking.”

Nathan Hill-Haimes added, 

“Enabling lower-income household to eat, learn and work, should be a top government priority. Access to the internet is a human right fundamentally connected to a basic standard of living.

The Gigabit and Rural Voucher Schemes (3) have been in operation for years subsidising the cost of installing new fast and reliable connections for homes and SME businesses. There’s no reason why the Government couldn’t swiftly implement a ‘broadband with school meals’ scheme to assist those in need with affordable broadband access.”

Compare Fibre intends to visit No.10 and directly address these issues with Boris Johnson – we’ve got to do more!

Media Contact:

Name of Media Contact: Radaam Thirlway

Contact Phone: 07966 475843

Title of Media Contact: Co-Founder

Contact Email: radaam@comparefibre.co.uk

Company Name: Compare Fibre

Website URL: www.comparefibre.co.uk

1 – https://www.cam.ac.uk/stories/digitaldivide

2 – http://darren-jones.co.uk/darren-jones-its-time-for-a-social-broadband-tariff-to-end-digital-poverty

3 – https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-enable-uk-means-tested-broadband

4 – https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/