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Broadband: Low Incomes

Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps his Department is taking to increase levels of access to broadband for lower-income households. (255471)

My right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister appointed my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales as Minister for Digital Inclusion last year because the Government recognise this as a very important challenge facing the UK.

While there had been a modest increase in broadband use in recent years it was clear that take-up had slowed down and that the remaining one third of the population (17 million people) would need to see the benefits of the internet and develop the skills and confidence to use it.

Since taking on the role, the Digital Inclusion Minister has formed a dedicated Cabinet committee—MISC 34, he has established a cross-government coordination unit, and Government have engaged a wide range of stakeholders in developing the cross-government report “Delivering Digital Inclusion—An Action plan for Consultation”

in order to have a coherent and concerted drive to address digital inclusion and increase access to broadband for poorer households with children for example The Home Access programme. We are also looking at with key stakeholders—planners, registered social landlords (RSL’s) and the construction industry at ways of designing out “digital exclusion” from social housing, special accommodation and new builds. The action plan details over 70 Government actions taking place to advance digital inclusion and future actions being considered by Government to facilitate access and skills to digital technologies for disadvantaged groups and individuals in The annex

of the report. The consultation was launched on 27 October 2008 and was extended to 26 January at the request of stakeholders. Government are currently analysing responses to inform further progress.

My noble Friend, Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report will develop plans for a digital Universal Service Commitment to be effective by 2012. An interim report was published on 29 January 2009, which laid out the road of travel and issues Government intend to look at before a full report is published in the summer 2009.