The Communications Consumer Panel, an independent policy advisory body to Ofcom on consumer interests, has released a study that shows that of the 2,000 people in their 16 focus groups, 84% believe that everyone should have access to broadband no matter where they live, and 73% believe that a low income should not be a barrier to getting it.
The research indicates that broadband at home is in between being useful and vital. Whilst some find it essential, offline services and access to the Internet elsewhere prevents those without from entirely missing out.
The tipping point will be when broadband does not just provide an advantage to people who have it, but disadvantages people who do not. Interestingly some people already feel disadvantaged: those who live in not-spots and those who have school-age children but do not have broadband at home."
"Our research provides clear support for the Government's proposed universal broadband commitment but Government must make it clear what services and activities people will and will not be able to carry out with a download speed of 2Mb/s - and will need to keep this under review so that it does not become outmoded."Anna Bradley (Chair), Communications Consumer Panel
It may, however, already be true that those without broadband at home are disadvantaged. Using an online energy plan from companies such as British Gas and nPower you could save on average £185 a year, and in some cases, nearly £300 against the standard plan.
Consumers are also more concerned about what they can do with their connection than its speed. These obviously go hand in hand, and show consumers may not be aware of the difference between a 2meg and an 8meg connection, and what the speed increase actually allows you to do. Yesterday, Microsoft announced that the Xbox 360 would be getting 1080p high-definition streamed movie downloads under its Zune brand which would be available to watch nearly instantaneously, but to take advantage of the highest resolution, you would need a broadband connection of 8Mbps or above. This would preclude most UK users as the average broadband speed is around 3.6Mbps, and even though most UK broadband is sold as up-to 8Mbps (although faster services are available), users only actually achieve around 7Mbps maximum.
Some users still struggle to receive speeds up to 2Mbps and some live in broadband notspots where no service at all is available. If you live in one of these areas, you can register on our broadband not-spot site to help us track these areas.