The pandemic has taught us the importance of fast broadband
By JOHNNY JENKINS - Editor-in-Chief
Studying and working from home has left me staring at the spinning wheel of doom, waiting for meetings, documents and videos to load. The Prime Minister has pledged full fibre broadband for all British houses, but this hasn't been delivered yet, at the time we need it most.
When Boris Johnson promised quick broadband for the whole country during the 2019 election campaign, he never could have realised how important this issue would become. Thousands of us now work from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with many of us keen to never return to the dreaded office. Working from home is more convenient and cheaper for many, but is only possible if decent broadband is delivered to the whole country.
When Jeremy Corbyn suggested free universal broadband, describing it as a ‘treasured national institution’, many scoffed at the idea, referring to the policy as ‘broadband communism’. Whilst this policy has had the meme-treatment over the years, it seems more sensible now than ever before.
Children are learning from home, using up plenty of broadband bandwidth on live lessons and pre-recorded video content. Adults are working from home, in back-to-back video calls, needing to access databases and company dashboards from home. Whatever our current situation is, we have all found ourselves in that frustrating scenario where our broadband cuts out and we lose our connection with colleagues or friends.
Whilst the average broadband speed rose in 2020 by 18%, the national coronavirus lockdown ten months ago led to a decline in WiFi and mobile data speed, resulting in many struggling to work from home. It has been widely reported that some struggle with broadband so much that they are forced to go to the office, and take their home-schooling children with them. This development is worrying, resulting in individuals putting themselves at risk by leaving the safest place at the moment - their home.
The government is almost solely focused on dealing with the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic - this is understandable, and completely right. But, as we begin to emerge into a post-Covid world, we should use this opportunity to rebuild the broadband structures around us. Every street needs to be dug up for broadband, and whilst we may complain about the disruption at the time, we will be incredibly grateful once that scrolling loading sign begins to disappear.
This isn’t a particularly political issue, it is in everybody’s interests to have better broadband. It will have no trouble passing through the parliamentary institutions, and will be welcomed by almost every household in the country. It is a free pass for the Prime Minister and the government to get some good news headlines. It is this government’s duty to ensure we all have access to basic yet essential commodities, food, shelter and now, broadband.
In a post-Covid world, many of us will continue to work and study from home, at least part-time. We all need fast fibre broadband - it is now an essential commodity. The Prime Minister, and the Digital minister, Oliver Dowden, need to begin acting on their 2019 manifesto commitments and make our 9-5 working and our 5-9 doom scrolling quicker and more accessible for all.