Cost of living Leeds: Households forced to choose between having internet and putting food on the table
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Families are facing a stark choice between renewing a broadband contract and putting food on the table, local councillors were told on Monday. With society increasingly reliant on the online world, there are concerns around the impact of rising digital poverty in some of Leeds’ poorer areas.
The issue was raised at a scrutiny meeting on Wednesday, during a debate about digital inclusion and access to technology in Leeds.
Asked by one councillor if there was any evidence of families switching off their internet as a cost-saving measure, Amy Hearn, from the council’s digital inclusion team, said: “The answer to that is ‘yes’. We’ve seen that through our partners, especially those in the most economically deprived areas of the city.
“For a lot of people, it’s simply a choice between spending £20 (a month) on extending their wi-fi contract when it comes to an end, or putting food on the table. That’s a real decision a lot of people are having to make.”
Councillors were told about the work of the national databank, which is supported by some of the leading mobile phone networks. The scheme is effectively run like a food bank for mobile data, where those unable to afford internet access can benefit from someone else’s unused monthly data, which can be donated.
Ms Hearn added: “It’s not as good as having wi-fi, but it is something.”
Leeds City Council set up a digital inclusion programme in 2015, in an effort to improve local people’s online access and skills. In the eight years since, it’s become one of the “most successful, high-profile and well-respected” such schemes in the country, a report going before the council’s infrastructure and investment scrutiny committee said.