Benefits for communities

Supporting community life

Superfast broadband allows local people to become more active within their community by making it easier to communicate with each other and be involved with local groups. The 24/7 connectivity means you can talk to each other and keep on top of community news throughout the day, and the faster connection allows you to use social media websites designed for bringing groups of people together.

People with a fast broadband connection are also more likely to use the web as a way to find out what is happening in their area. The internet could become the hub and noticeboard for all activities in your community. For example, many parish councils produce websites for their residents. These often detail what is happening in their community, local planning applications, issues which will affect the area etc. This allows better access to local democratic and community involvement, as well as potentially saving money on newsletter print costs. Many other community groups also use the web to keep members informed and involved, from Scouts groups to local pensioner forums.

If you would like to create a website for your community, there are several free and straightforward ways to do this. If you haven’t got access to fast broadband in your community, a local campaign to improve this might be your first step towards better community involvement.

Better access to services

Many government and other important services are now moving online – it’s a much more cost-effective option. Fast broadband allows individuals and communities to access a wide range of services from sites such as www.gov.uk. This site allows users to find out information on a huge range of topics, from “who is the local neighbourhood policing team” to “how to make your community greener”.

On a more local level, the county council and local district councils also have a broad range of information and online services on their websites. Other online commercial services may also be helpful to communities and individuals. For example, living in a rural area without owning a car may make shopping a problem. Many supermarkets now offer online shopping with delivery to your door – these services are much easier to access and more reliable with faster broadband. Likewise, services such as online banking make life easier for people in more remote communities.

Cheaper telecoms

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a technology that allows you to make telephone calls using your broadband internet connection instead of your analogue phoneline. Your voice is broken up by special software into small packets of data, which are then sent through the internet and reassembled at the receiving end. This happens almost instantaneously, with no discernible time lag and at good quality – at least as good as a landline call.

There are several systems, but probably the most common in consumer use is Skype. By using this service, along with a simple, cheap microphone/earphone headset or a Skype phone, a PC-to-PC call anywhere in the world is free – so even on those dreary winter days you can stay in touch with neighbours and friends in the same village without worrying about the cost of a phone call! If you want to phone a landline, you can still make significant savings over your ordinary telephone line. For example, buying Skype credits and calling a landline in Australia would cost less than £1 for an hour! This could substantially reduce call costs to friends and relatives overseas.

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