A free basic internet connection for everyone

Every home in Scotland would be provided with a free, high quality, internet connection.
The speed could be capped, allowing the benefits of being online to be available to everyone, without the 'bells and whistles' available at higher speeds from the current commercial operators.
Routers provided by internet service providers in the same manner that 'smart meters' are being provided by energy providers.
Openreach would be required to provide a non-contractual, non-linerental, capped service to every household.

Why the contribution is important

Many people live in areas which are exceptionally well served with fibre from Virgin Media and Openreach and with excellent 4G availability from all of the operators and yet, despite this wealth of connectivity, are still not online.
There is obviously not just a single reason for this, however, cost and contracts are clearly one of the major factors.  As we ask people to transact with government, local authority, and other organisations online, those who cannot afford an internet connection become ever-more the people who should be online.
The provision of a free basic broadband service would improve the lives of thousands of people who do not have the financial capability to get online.  Taking the lack of connectivity out of the equation will allow resources to be targeted at the other issues concerning digital participation.

by craigstep on November 15, 2016 at 10:01AM

Current Rating

Average score : 4.7
Based on : 8 votes


  • Posted by ScotGovDigitalAnna November 15, 2016 at 15:46

    Thanks for your contribution - suggest this sits under 'connectivity' theme.
  • Posted by sroebuck November 20, 2016 at 17:59

    I like this idea. As I understand it, smart meters require an internet connection in order to feed back data to the operator. The installation of a basic internet connection could potentially be tied in with this role-out.

    If we want digital by default to bring the economic benefits in the future, we need to make sure that the vast majority of the population is not just within reach of broadband, but also connected.
  • Posted by ScotGovDigitalDebbie November 21, 2016 at 14:26

    Due to the reserved nature of telecoms and the UK-wide role of Ofcom, the Scottish Government doesn’t currently have the power to independently take this kind of activity forwarded.

    Earlier this year, the UK Government set out a proposal to introduce a broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) to provide 10 megabits per second download speeds to all, upon reasonable request. Subsequently, Ofcom undertook a consultation to seeks views from consumers and industry to inform analysis of the options for designing and implementing a broadband USO, which will ultimately form the basis of the recommendations put to the UK Government for consideration by the end of 2016.

    Unlike the UK Government, the Scottish Government wants to extend superfast broadband access to 100% of premises by 2021. The Scottish Government is keen for the USO to work effectively, even if it may not apply as extensively in Scotland as it would in other parts of the UK. Given our differing ambitions, the Scottish Government has indicated that it would like to be involved in the design of the USO to ensure co-ordination with our planned investment.

    The Scottish Government believe that the USO for broadband should be seen as an opportunity to ensure that every part of the UK has an underlying fibre infrastructure that supports a range of technologies capable of delivering a 10Mbps service initially; but also one that is dynamic and future-proofed, keeping pace as technology and service capabilities grow.
  • Posted by jcvstephenson November 22, 2016 at 10:49

    I understand that the Scottish Government wants to extend superfast broadband access to 100% of premises - this is very commendable. However, there is a huge difference in providing access to 100% of premises and providing access to 100% of the population. If someone does not have the financial capability (unable to get a contract, cannot afford a monthly payment etc) then it does not matter what telecommunications infrastructure surrounds them, they will not be able to access it.

    It may be that compelling industry to provide this type of access is currently not devolved, so another solution with the same outcome needs to be found; perhaps there are other incentives that the telecommunications industry would accept to offset the perceived cost.
  • Posted by lgilmour November 24, 2016 at 13:36

    Because the Scottish Government doesn't currently have the powers to provide people with a basic internet connection at the moment, we could plug this gap by looking at lending or giving out mobile wi-fi dongles and mi - fi units. Whilst this isn't exactly ideal in terms of speed and reliability, it is still something. It also means that people could get connected almost immediately. Providing an internet connection requires someone to come and install it and also requires a landline. This would be a massive upheaval for people - especially if they are working.

    This service could be delivered by local authorities and libraries with front line workers identifying a need and operating on a referral system to the local library or, if one exists, the local digital participation team.
  • Posted by MM December 06, 2016 at 16:28

    Excellent point re availability and access not being necessarily the same thing. And just as important as being able to afford to connect is having the skills and confidence to do so - all these elements need to be worked on at the same time.
  • Posted by ScotGovDigitalFraser December 07, 2016 at 12:01

    I think this contribution raises some good points, it highlights that connectivity is an issue which is at the heart of any digital strategy but we must also consider the opportunity to for access to be delivered in an affordable way. "Cost" is recognised as a barrier to participation.

    The Scottish Government's Connecting the Unconnected initiative encourages discussion and testing of affordable solutions to digital access within the social housing sector and in the past has led to prototype models being developed.
  • Posted by KBG December 15, 2016 at 12:09

    Free is maybe unachievable. Very little in life is free, never mind other utilities i.e. power, water, sewage, etc.
    However, a low and capped charge for a minimum service e.g. 10Mbps might be possible? This would be across all ISPs and mechanisms (from satellite to landline).
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