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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 April, 2005, 08:27 GMT 09:27 UK
Broadband reveals digital divide
The digital divide in English and Welsh constituencies

Constituencies with the highest and lowest take-up of broadband are in Wales reveals research.

Cardiff Central tops the list of most connected constituencies with almost 40% of homes having fast net access, finds net specialist Point Topic.

Bottom of the league is Meirionnydd Nant Conwy where little more than 2% of homes are on broadband links.

The researchers said the figures reveal the way that technology is accentuating differences between rich and poor.

Net gains

The breakdown by constituency shows wide differences in the take-up of fast net services says Tim Johnson, founder of Point Topic.

Areas with the highest proportion of households with broadband tend to be in dense, middle-class suburbs, he said, especially those where both cable and DSL is available.

Having more than one way to get broadband tends to increase numbers overall, he said.

The research found that seven out of the top 10 most connected constituencies have Labour MPs. Mr Johnson said it was hard to read anything in to that figure because Labour is the majority party and has traditionally done well in such dense, industrialised towns and suburbs.

This helped to explain why places like Cardiff Central and Cardiff North are top of the most connected constituency charts.

Towns and districts to the North of London, such as Saint Albans, Chesham and Watford were also places where broadband was widely used.

"But," said Mr Johnson, "at the other end of the scale there are still geographically large areas where you can't get broadband at all except by satellite."

Net losers

Mr Johnson said the significance of the results did not just lie in the fact that they exposed broad national differences in broadband take-up.


They also suggest that the net is accentuating broader socio-economic differences, he said.

Figures show a significant slow-down in the rate at which households adopt the internet.

By contrast the number of people that have signed up for broadband has rocketed from almost nothing to 7 million lines in only a few years.

Mr Johnson said this suggests that existing net users are upgrading their connection to get more out of it.

New users would be unlikely to sign up a fast connection straight away.

Mr Johnson said the figures showed a significant digital divide in the UK. "We came out of this realising that it's not about the geographical divide, which is a solvable problem, its the social divide that's important." he said.

"There are more than 40% of homes without the internet."

Unlike many other indicators of deprivation the net was very much something people had or didn't, he said.

Increasingly, said Mr Johnson, access to the net was important for children so they can keep up with their peers.

He added that the parties needed to find ways to change the economics of net access and genuinely widen its use within the UK.

Constituencies with highest and lowest broadband use, BBC

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