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How social landlords can take the lead on enabling broadband connectivity

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How social landlords can take the lead on enabling broadband connectivity

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Development, Featured

How social landlords can take the lead on enabling broadband connectivity How social landlords can take the lead on enabling broadband connectivity

Research recently found that just under half of those living in social housing have no access to the internet. Here Dana Tobak, managing director of broadband supplier, Hyperoptic, argues that social landlords have good reasons to get their tenants online.

The research undertaken by the UK’s ‘digital champion’, Martha Lane Fox, which uncovered that 47% of adults living in social housing had no internet access in their home, was a much needed wake-up call for social housing landlords the length and breadth of the UK.

As Fox called upon social landlords to play their part in bridging the digital divide, her reasoning couldn’t be clearer: the role of broadband has changed in recent years, fast moving from a nicety to a necessity.

Increased take-up of broadband services among social housing tenants is proven to improve their social and economic welfare. Connectivity doesn’t just help tenants save money through online shopping and keep in touch with family – it can improve their chances of gaining employment, as well as play a key role in developing literacy levels and educational attainment.

All this means that enabling broadband falls under the Corporate-Social-Responsibility remit of social housing landlords. However social housing landlords should also consider the benefits that connectivity will give them. It is argued it can actually improve their profitability. Due to advent of Universal Credit, rent will be paid directly from tenants, rather than the state.

With that in mind, analyst house, Analysys Mason, goes so far to say that rental incomes will be at risk if social landlords do not develop a robust strategy to promote the take-up of broadband services. Estimates suggest that social landlords could save up to £340 million by providing their tenants with the means to report repairs or pay rent online. When you look at the topic from this angle, it is really in the landlords’ best interest to enable a broadband connection.

When it comes to enabling connectivity it is rapidly becoming easier to put in place cost-effective hyper-fast fibre broadband. Social housing landlords now have the option to plug fibre optic broadband straight into the premises, which can enable speeds all the way up to 1 Gig. Installation is incredibly simple and is even easier if it’s done in tandem with other works – whether upgrading an IRS, cabling work or even a standard refurbishment.

Fitting the building for this process is achieved via a two stage process. Firstly, the fibre optic cable is plugged into the building’s existing ducts and then the cable is taken to each floor and across the ceiling voids. This entire process takes just a few weeks. Next, the connection is fitted in each property, remarkably, ten to fifteen installations can be done per day and installations costs are tiny.

Encouraging the majority of tenants to use broadband won’t be a problem – broadband is so main-stream now that the benefits are reasonably well understood and growing on a daily basis with the ongoing digitisation of services. However, there will be more vulnerable tenants who may lack digital skills.

Landlords once again have a myriad of options to help these people, including starting an internal programme of “champions” or utilising free sources like Race Online 2012, which contains free resources designed to help organisations get people online.
Ultimately broadband access is becoming ubiquitous across households in the UK and it is time for social landlords to take the lead on enabling digital inclusion.

By taking this step forward, the social landlords can exceed what is being asked of the through legislation and with a fibre-to-the-premises strategy, will also ensure that their properties are future-proofed for years to come.

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