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Laura Holdgate
Principal Policy Adviser, Digital Life
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Ensuring all consumers benefit from more reliable, gigabit-capable, connectivity

For millions of households and businesses, the pandemic has demonstrated the value of a fast and reliable broadband connection. 68% of consumers increased their broadband use between March 2020 and March 2021. This need and expectation for better broadband connectivity is only set to continue, with more services moving online, including critical consumer services such as banking and healthcare appointments.

 

The rollout of gigabit-capable broadband is vital to ensure Britain’s broadband infrastructure can meet the needs of consumers, businesses and the economy for years to come. The government has set out its ambition that at least 85% of the UK should have access to these connections by 2025. However, demand for these connections is critical to ensure that the benefits of these are realised.

 

So, in August 2020, the government asked Which?, along with the CBI and FSB to convene the Gigabit Take-up Advisory Group (GigaTAG). It brought together consumer and business groups, Ofcom, government and industry representatives to develop a set of recommendations to help overcome the barriers that consumers and businesses may face to adopting gigabit-capable broadband. It’s overall aim is to support consumer and business migration to gigabit-capable networks and the services they deliver, as soon as possible.

 

 

Overcoming the barriers to adoption


 

The GigaTAG’s final report sets out three main barriers that consumers face to adopting gigabit-capable connections, based on research findings and evidence gathered from stakeholders. These are:

 

 

  • Lack of awareness of gigabit-capable broadband: many people are unaware that the government and industry intends for most premises to be connected to a new network that will deliver them much faster and more reliable broadband services. Which? research found that 59% of broadband decision makers are not aware of the term ‘gigabit-capable broadband’.

  • Little benefit, or perceived benefit, of gigabit-capable broadband: there is currently no pull for consumers to adopt these connections, either in the form of a ‘killer’ consumer application or perceived importance of faster speeds. Consumers lack of clarity as to gigabit differs to other connections  and as a result willingness to pay for the service is low. Just 21% would be willing to pay more than they do now for gigabit-capable broadband.

  • Practical barriers to adoption: these factors are subsidiary for most consumers but include hassle related to the switch. 32% of broadband decision makers say that they would be put off adopting gigabit broadband by the hassle of finding the best gigabit-capable package for their households. Consumers on lower-incomes and older adults can also face barriers of affordability and capability to engage.

 

Taking action to encourage adoption


 

The GigaTAG has now published its final report which outlines its final recommendations - for government, Ofcom and industry. These aim to address the barriers identified and help support increased awareness and understanding of gigabit-capable broadband and overcome low willingness, or ability, to pay.

 

To address a lack of awareness and understanding the recommendations include:

 

  • Ofcom and the broadband industry should work together on clear and common terminology to cut through advertising jargon and describe gigabit broadband and its benefits in straightforward terms.

 

  • As part of this work to improve the clarity of information, Ofcom should assess the role that a “gigabit-ready” labelling scheme -  similar to the BSI KiteMark - could play in increasing consumers’ and businesses' understanding of gigabit-capable broadband.

 

  • Enlist the help of local authorities in an effort to raise awareness and promote the benefits of upgrading to gigabit broadband at a local level - with the provision of a ‘gigabit toolkit’. At the right time, the government should also undertake its own nationwide awareness-raising - leading a coalition of stakeholders to work together on a national campaign.

 

To help overcome low willingness, or ability, to pay, the GigaTAG has recommended that:

 

  • In addition to ongiong work to introduce voluntary social tariffs, the government should conduct an evidence-base assessment of the existing and potential measures to support low-income households. This includes exploring the possibility of a targeted voucher scheme arimed at lower-income households.

 

  • Further consideration should be given to an employer-led scheme to support the uptake of gigabit broadband by offering employee discounts, similar to gym membership discount schemes offered by many businesses. This will also help businesses support remote working, which has become commonplace in light of the pandemic.

 

The GigaTAG believes this package of measures will help motivate consumers and businesses to switch to gigabit-capable broadband networks, enabling them to take advantage of the benefits of these connections and support the government’s ambition to roll out these faster, more reliable, networks across the UK.

 

Next steps


 

Which? Is going to continue its work as part of the GigaTAG – the group will reconvene in six months to review progress on taking these recommendations forward, and we will meet on a biannual basis thereafter. We will work with Ofcom, government and industry to help ensure that these recommendations are implemented, and that we are all ready to take advantage of these new connections when they become available.

 

You can find the final GigaTAG report and the research we’ve undertaken to support this work here.

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