broadband fibre

Gigabit broadband rollout hampered by lack of understanding of benefits

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Many UK consumers and businesses are not aware of the benefits of gigabit broadband which puts its rollout at risk, the Gigabit Take-up Advisory Group (GigaTAG) has warned.

The group, assembled by Which?, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) at the request of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), has recommended that Ofcom works with broadband firms on common terminology to cut through advertising jargon and describe gigabit broadband and its benefits in straightforward terms.

Gigabit internet, which delivers download speeds of 1Gbps, is useful for multiple 4K video streams, online gaming, immersive media such as 360-degree video and VR, as well as tighter integration into cloud-based services.

In its 2019 manifesto, the Conservative Party pledged to deliver full-fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025, although after winning the election it rolled this pledge back to just 85 per cent. In March, DCMS criticised the government for failing to explain how it planned to achieve even this more limited goal.

In a report by GigaTAG, around six in 10 (59 per cent) consumers were not aware of gigabit-capable broadband, and a third (33 per cent) of small and micro businesses have not heard of gigabit-capable broadband.

Low demand for these better services could hinder the government’s rollout ambitions, it warned. As part of its work to improve the clarity of information, it proposed that Ofcom prepares a “gigabit-ready” labelling scheme – similar to the BSI KiteMark – that could help to increase consumers’ and businesses’ understanding of gigabit-capable broadband.

It also suggests enlisting the help of local authorities in an effort to raise awareness and promote the benefits of upgrading to gigabit broadband at a local level in addition to a nationwide campaign.

The report identifies affordability as a key barrier to the adoption of gigabit-capable broadband for low-income households, with research revealing around two in five (44 per cent) of those in a low-income household citing it as an issue.

Also among the barriers identified in the report is the low willingness among consumers to pay more, with only one in five (21 per cent) people willing to pay more for gigabit-capable broadband, and a lack of understanding of the benefits, with two in five (41 per cent) unclear about how it differs from their current package.

Rocio Concha, chair of GigaTAG, said: “Digital connectivity has never been more important, with the pandemic highlighting how dependent consumers are on a good broadband connection for daily activities such as remote working, access to services and keeping in touch with family and friends.

“Demand for faster, more reliable broadband services is crucial to the success of the roll-out of gigabit-capable broadband, and to ensure the benefits of these connections are realised.

“Better information about the benefits, measures to improve the language used to describe these services, along with possible targeted voucher and discount schemes, will help to address the barriers preventing consumers from benefiting from better connections.”

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “Gigabit broadband is the next giant leap forward in internet technology and our record £5bn investment is rapidly fuelling the rollout – with 60 per cent of the UK due to have access by the end of this year, up from just 12 per cent in 2019.

“We believe passionately in making sure everyone can feel the benefits of these lightning-fast speeds and I will be carefully considering GigaTAG’s welcome proposals for boosting consumer take-up.”

An Ofcom spokesman said: “We agree it’s important people can understand the benefits of these faster, more reliable connections. So we’ve already begun work with industry to make sure customers can compare clear, consistent information from different providers.”

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