Page last updated at 02:44 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 03:44 UK

Free broadband won't entice all

People in a UK Online centre
Some people access the internet at public centres

Some 43% of adults who currently do not have internet access would remain disconnected even if they were given a free PC and broadband connection.

The statistic, part of research conducted by regulator Ofcom will make depressing reading for some.

But it is not all bad news. Ofcom's survey found that one in five adults who don't have the internet plan to go online in the next six months.

17 million Britons - 30% of the population - are currently offline.

The government is keen to get more people online, as it moves more of its services on to the web.


Next week sees the publication of the Digital Britain report, which will lay out the government's plans for broadband for the next decade or so.

A key part of it will be a commitment to get a minimum of 2Mbps (megabits per second) broadband to every home in the UK by 2012.

The Ofcom research identified two main groups of people without access to the net - the self-excluded and those who are staying offline for financial reasons.

Silver surfer
Not all older people are silver surfers

Some 42% of adults said that they had no interest or need for the internet. This so-called self-excluded group tended to be older or retired, with 61% confessing to never having used a computer.

For 30% of those currently offline the main reasons given for that choice was financial or lack of skills.

Half-price computers and discounted monthly tariffs may not be the way forward though.

When asked what would change their minds about going online, only 9% said cheaper deals would be an incentive. Free training was identified by 11% with the majority (58%) choosing "not interested" or "don't know".

One in five adults those said they would sign up for some form of internet service in the next six months.

Essential utility

"Broadband is becoming increasingly important to people's ability to participate in the economy and society," said Ofcom's market development partner Peter Phillips.

"The report shows that some creativity will be required if we wish to capture the imaginations of those who have yet to engage with the benefits the internet may bring," he said.

A report from market research firm SQW Consulting estimated that the average UK household could make savings of up to £70 a month by shopping online.

The Communications Consumer Panel, which advises Ofcom on broadband issues, recently conducted research among 2,000 people, both on and offline.

It found that 73% described broadband as essential a utility as water or electricity.

Ofcom estimates that internet penetration in the UK stands at 70%. Of this, 65% have broadband with 2% still using dial-up and 3% using mobile broadband.

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