Full-fibre broadband offers so much more than access to Netflix - it can change lives, writes Jeremy Chelot
The Ministry of Housing’s ‘A new deal for social housing’ green paper and subsequent consultation, released last year, sets out the government’s ambitions around social housing and quite rightly focuses on ensuring that residents were guaranteed safe and decent housing.
Included in the paper are measures to improve building safety and objectives to make social housing a ‘stable base’ for those who want to progress and get onto the property ladder. These are certainly laudable aims that should be supported. However, without adequate mention of quality broadband connections, it is questionable whether all these targets can be met.
Of course, more government services are moving online as the UK becomes an increasingly technologically-driven society. A prominent example is universal credit, which is now only accessible online. It is therefore essential that broadband services are provided to ensure social housing residents are able to access these services properly.
Not only this, internet connectivity is now considered a vital utility in housing more generally. Broadband is often referred to as the ‘fourth utility’ and considered as important as water and heating services. Therefore, it is fundamental that the government includes full-fibre broadband in their definition of a ‘decent’ home and integrate it in their plans to improve social housing.
For local authorities, the benefits of full-fibre in social housing are also significant. Buildings equipped with true full-fibre broadband have the potential to reduce maintenance and upgrading costs, as well as prepare properties for future internet-enabled technology. Savings could be made on energy costs with improved connectivity between heating and ventilation controls, and it could enable off-site building control through remotely connected smoke and intruder alarms and water flow sensors. This should be a consideration for private and social housing builders alike.
It is clear reliable broadband has become a necessity for many people living in social housing, and it will be interesting to see whether the issue of internet connectivity is addressed when the consultation responses are published.
Not only should broadband be considered a vital utility for ‘decent’ housing, it is also clear that access to internet can have a positive impact on people’s lives, especially for those in social housing. From a personal and professional perspective, I have seen how better access to broadband opens the door to new education, engagement and employment opportunities. This is a target all in British society want to achieve.