Hundreds of homes on Sheffield estate get free broadband to tackle 'digital poverty'

Hundreds of homes on the Dryden Estate will be given free broadband. Credit: Molly Williams

Hundreds of homes on a deprived estate in South Yorkshire will be given free internet access in a bid to tackle so-called digital poverty.

Residents of 360 homes on the Dryden Estate in Southey Green, one of the most underprivileged areas in Sheffield, will not have to pay for broadband usage as part of a pilot scheme to help people cope with rising living costs.

The scheme follows the Laptops for All project, led by software company WANdisco, which gave free devices to people on the estate. It was funded by a £72,000 grant from the council.

David Richards, chief executive of WANdisco, said: "If you don't have 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."

Mr Richards said the internet should be governed in the same way as water, gas and electricity supplies.

He said it is "not [about] luxuries, it's so they can afford to feed themselves and heat their homes".

People living on the estate will be given broadband for at least the next three years.

Cllr 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."

Local leaders will collaborate with Pine Media to provide a network to residents with links to community news and essential online services, such as the local GP and job listings.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield will also gather data in partnership with the Digital Poverty Alliance to monitor the project's success.

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