Is a cheap PC and long contract the best way to get people online?
The drive to get as many people online in the UK as possible continues, the benefit for the Government being that is almost all the population is online that more services can be moved online. For many the barriers are numerous, including the cost of buying their first PC, paying the monthly broadband subscription, worries about their safety online and literacy.
Go ON UK has been running a digital inclusion programme for some time, and Get Online @Home is not a new initiative with some 23,000 computers sold since launching in 2011. The latest offer from Get Online @Home means a desktop computer is available for £24 if you are eligible and a laptop is available for £74 if you commit to 12 to 24 month broadband contract. The £75 saving on the normal PC price (standard price is £99 for desktop PC and £149 laptop) and broadband deals that are available are those listed by Simplify Digital and is limited to packages by Plusnet, Sky, EE, Virgin Media and Primus Saver.
The list of benefits that qualify for the £75 discount are: Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseeker's allowance, Pension credit, Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance / Constant Attendance Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Incapacity Benefit / Employment and Support Allowance, Disability element of Working Tax Credit.
The broadband packages listed will usually require payment by direct debit and with telephone line rental needed (£10 to £15 per month) when the cheapest broadband service is listed as free (with £62.18 of upfront costs) the scope for people signing up and not fully understanding their financial commitments is pretty large.
We would have liked to have seen a set of simple tarrifs from the providers, rather than just a comparison engine listing. For many people the cheapest route online if they are struggling financially may be mobile broadband if a reasonable service is available and a MiFi dongle with pre-pay usage allowance, this also means people who are not living in a single location for long periods can easily move without cease/provide costs on the telephone and broadband service.