Cost of living: Sheffield estate to get free internet in bid to tackle digital poverty

Residents of 360 homes on the Dryden estate at Southey Green – where it was reported only 10 per cent have access to the internet – will benefit from the project for an initial three years.

Councillor Richard Williams, chair of the communities committee, said: “This initiative has come at the right time, with many people struggling to pay for food and fuel and other essential items.

“The internet is so important to all of us and should be accessible to everyone. I hope that this community-led project is a success and that residents will see long-term benefits from this improved connectivity.”

Hundreds of residents living on a Sheffield estate in Southey Green are due to get free broadband from this month as part of a pilot scheme tackling digital poverty.

The scheme follows the Laptops for All project led by software company WANdisco and the Sheffield Star newspaper.

The council awarded a grant of £72,000 – from Community Infrastructure Levy funding – to the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation, founded by the chief executive of WANdisco, to help with the project.

Speaking about the scheme earlier this year, David Richards, chief executive of WANdisco, said: “If you don’t have the internet you can’t get a job, apply for Universal Credit, or see a doctor. It’s a death spiral, a vicious cycle.

“In that demographic, people will turn to crime so they can afford to live.

David Richards, chief executive of WANdisco.

“It’s not so that they can get luxuries, it’s so they can afford to feed themselves and heat their homes. This is the problem.

“My belief is that internet service should be governed under the same principles as water, gas, electricity, and it should be always available to everyone.”

Pine Media is building the network for the infrastructure which will create several roles for trainee technicians who will work within an experienced team.

Local leaders will manage a portal for the network providing links to community news and essential online services such as the local GP, educational resources, job listings and digital skills courses.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield will gather data in collaboration with the Digital Poverty Alliance and community representatives which includes asking households to fill in questionnaires.

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