Could free fibre broadband solve East Anglia's Wifi problems?
PUBLISHED: 16:14 19 November 2019 | UPDATED: 08:17 20 November 2019
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Labour has promised free full-fibre internet to every home and business by 2030. Could the plan bring an end to the East of England's painfully slow broadband speeds?
Just imagine - a world with no buffering. Web pages load almost instantly, and TV shows streaming in glorious HD.
This could be a reality across the UK in the not-so-distant future. Yes, even in deepest, darkest rural Suffolk and Norfolk! At least, that's what our politicians are proposing.
Last week, Jeremy Corbyn revealed an ambitious plan to bring free, super-fast broadband to every home and business in the UK.
Labour's vision - if they are elected - would part-nationalise BT, creating a new state-owned company called British Broadband. And as for the eye-watering £20billion set-up cost? The tech giants of Amazon, Facebook and Google will reportedly be picking up the tab, with a radical new tax forcing these big businesses to cough up.
While Corbyn believes the plan will "fire up our economy", Prime Minister Boris Johnson has blasted the proposal as a "crazed communist scheme" at a campaign event over the weekend.
Johnson himself has promised £5bn to boost full-fibre services across the UK, showing that fast, reliable Wifi has become something of a burning issue for both parties as we head towards the general election.
There's perhaps no region of the UK that would stand to benefit more from a broadband upgrade than East Anglia.
The East of England has long been regarded an internet black hole, with sluggish speeds and bothersome buffering plaguing rural households across Norfolk and Suffolk.
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One in ten people in Suffolk risk falling behind due to limited internet access, charities have warned, while 57% of East Anglian residents reported poor internet performance when surveyed by County Broadband earlier in the year.
As the world grows increasingly digitalised, fast, reliable Wifi has moved from a luxury to a necessity.
Today, you'll need an internet connection to search for jobs, pay your bills, apply for housing and disability benefit, and access vital information about public services in your area. More and more, schools are beginning to set homework via apps and other online platforms, in an effort to introduce 'paperless classrooms'.
For those with patchy, unreliable connections, this online-only age creates real problems, with digital inequalities becoming all too apparent, particularly between those living in rural and urban areas.
Just think how comprehensively the internet has transformed our daily lives over the course of the past decade. At work and at home, we are ever more reliant on the World Wide Web, this dependence is only set to grow in the years to come, as AI and the Internet of Things work their way into our personal and professional lives.
But how can the UK expect to keep up with global leaps in technology when our Wifi is so pitiably poor?
Great Britain ranks just 35th in the world when it comes to average broadband speeds, falling into the bottom third of EU countries and lagging behind speedy Romania, Latvia and Hungary, among others.
According to Ofcom, just 8% of British homes and businesses use full-fibre broadband, compared with 89% in Portugal and 71% in Spain.
If we want to bring Britain into the future, we're in desperate need of an upgrade. Full-fibre is now regarded as the global standard for broadband, and we cannot afford to waste any time in rolling out the service across the country.
While Corbyn and Johnson might clash over their approaches to super-speedy Wifi, one thing is for certain - it simply needs to happen, and fast.