3 has pledged to get 100,000 people to become broadband users, as part of its commitment to the Race Online 2012 campaign. The network is sending a mobile broadband bus on the road to demonstrate the benefits of using the internet.
Race Online 2012 was launched in March this year with the aim of inspiring more people to use the internet and to offer support to those who need a helping hand. The Three Mobile Broadband bus will be stopping off at locations around the country where a UK online centres team will provide free internet advice and training.
3 is the first network to back the Race Online 2012 scheme, which aims to get an estimated 10 million UK citizens who have never used the internet online by 2012. The bus was unveiled yesterday at Wallingford Library in Oxfordshire by UK digital champion, Martha Lane Fox, minister for culture, communications and creative industries, Ed Vaizey, 3 CEO Kevin Russell and Helen Milner, MD of UK online centres.
According to Race Online 2012, around four million of the 10 million non-internet users in the UK are among the most disadvantaged: 39% are over 65; 38% are unemployed; and 19% are families with children. Race Online 2012 has indentified three key issues that stop people going online: lack of motivation; no access; and not having the skills.
The Mobile Broadband bus is designed to encourage people to overcome these issues. Kevin Russell said: ‘It is really important to us to promote mobile broadband. The bus will help build awareness of what it can do and as we go around the country we will see and learn what gets in the way of people using it.’
Asked if the Government would provide any help to the networks to extend mobile coverage into uneconomic rural areas, Vaizey said: ‘We will look at rural coverage and broadband under the mobile phone spectrum auction going forward. But we recognise it is a challenge for mobile phone companies to get universal coverage in terms of geography, because they have to make the investment. So we will look at ways we can make it happen together.’
Helen Milner of UK online centres, which works with the Government to provide public access to computers and the internet, added: ‘It is not just about supply, it is about demand. If we get that last 10 million people onto the internet and paying for broadband, then the more people you have, the bigger the marketplace.’
Russell told Mobile that the networks were not looking for any handouts regarding extending mobile coverage into rural areas, but he hoped that Ofcom would structure the spectrum auction in a way that balanced service levels with other business and financial requirements.