Bishop of Oxford calls for household access to digital connection to be treated equally to other household utilities

On 5th October 2020 Baroness McDonagh asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact on primary and secondary school students’ ability to learn for those students (1) who have digital connectivity, and (2) who do not have such connectivity, when learning from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Bishop of Oxford asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford [V]: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer and for what the Government have already done. Before the pandemic, 23% of children in socioeconomic groups D and E lacked home broadband and access to laptops, et cetera. Does the Minister agree that we now need to measure data poverty and its effects more carefully? Will the Government commit to legislating for household digital access to be treated as a utility on an equal footing with the right to access for water and heat—a change supported by the general public?

Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is correct that access to a computer at home is essential for children’s learning. On laptop and device provision, 470,000 devices are now being made available to disadvantaged children. They will be distributed by local authorities and academy trusts. Alongside that, we have provided 4G routers for children who do not have access, and there has been work with BT to ensure access for 10,000 disadvantaged families where they are relying on the mobile phone network to get broadband. There is now a universal service obligation under broadband of 10 megabytes per second.

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