Housing association tenants may be able to substantially reduce their monthly internet costs through a new service from BT Business.
The programme, developed through BT’s Connected Society programme, will supply internet to housing association customers, who can then offer tenants web access as a shared internet service. The programme will bring down monthly costs and offer training, support, and low-cost devices.
Housing associations will be able to deliver the service via several options, for example on a per unit basis on large estates or through communal Wi-Fi in care homes.
BT hopes the service will foster greater digital inclusion by getting more low-income and vulnerable groups online without having to worry about credit checks or extra costs associated with an Openreach installation.
The operator has been working extensively with housing associations for some time to identify and meet their needs.
Wales and West Housing ICT head, Richard Troote, said many of his organisation’s tenants had found the barriers to getting online were insurmountable.
"There are a number of drivers for us to provide internet at home to our residents, including the forthcoming implementation of Universal Credit, which means people have to be online, or at least have access to the internet,” said Troote.
In Scotland, BT has already been working with the Glasgow Housing Association and the Scottish Government to bring Wi-Fi access to 138 households in a Glasgow tower block.
Glasgow Housing Association offered tenants Archos 97 tablets and Samsung Google Chromebooks to access a single, high-speed Wi-Fi network implemented throughout their building, which links back to the main BT network through one connection.
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The association said two-thirds of tenants were now actively seeking employment opportunities online, with 4% gaining employment during the first six months of the project. Just over 60% of residents had also saved more than £100 thanks to the scheme, it reported.
BT Business CEO Graham Sutherland said over six million adults in the UK have never used the internet, and four million of those live in social housing.
“This not only affects employment prospects and access to education, but also access to essential services. It’s crucial that they have access to the internet, and that’s why we’re working with housing associations to help ensure those on low incomes, or who are unemployed, elderly or disabled have access to the internet,” he said.