Get yourself connected

Being connected in this way has become part of the fabric of everyday life – as important to communities and businesses as a water, gas or electricity connection.

With better access to high speed and reliable broadband and mobile connections, local communities can access public services more conveniently and purchase goods online at a lower cost.

People can work from home, cutting out their commute and improving their quality of life. Businesses can grow, become more productive, sell their products in a global market and access a raft of services not available to those offline.

In contrast, areas stuck in the digital slow lane are less attractive places to live, work and visit, and risk being left behind as other areas reap the benefits of our digital revolution.

“Councillors can play a vital role by educating residents on the benefits of faster, more reliable digital connectivity

As a councillor, you will know the real difference you can make to people’s lives. You will also be aware of the balance you need to strike between the needs of your area, your residents, community groups, local businesses, your political party (if you belong to one) and the council. Digital connectivity presents many similar challenges to just about any other issue that you will need to deal with.

Councillors can play a vital role in this area by:

  • educating residents, voluntary and third-sector groups, and businesses on the benefits of faster, more reliable connectivity
  • bringing communities together to advocate for improved digital connectivity by applying for grants or aggregating their demand to persuade telecommunications providers to build the necessary infrastructure on their road
  • helping residents consider where it is most appropriate to build new digital infrastructure, such as a phone mast, to improve residents’ and
    businesses’ connectivity while conserving local landscapes
  • working in partnership with council portfolio holders, officers and other local stakeholders to consider the role your council can play in helping to improve communities’ digital connectivity.

While most people in the UK are connected to a basic broadband connection, there remain too many communities where streaming a movie at home or even sending pictures to friends and family via email is considered a luxury.

These poorly connected areas aren’t just in out-of-the-way hamlets deep in the countryside. Some inner-city areas such as Rotherhithe in London, Deansgate in Manchester and the Baltic Triangle in Liverpool, have average speeds well below par.

Similarly, while many parts of the country take for granted the existence of ever-present, high-quality mobile connectivity, there are significant gaps in coverage. These gaps are usually found in rural communities, where residents suffer from partial mobile coverage, where not all mobile network operators cover an area, or ‘not spots’, where a mobile phone will not be able to make a call on any network.

As technology continues to evolve, it is vital that all local areas have the digital infrastructure able to meet the demands of consumers and businesses today and in the future.

You can find out more about the LGA’s work on digital connectivity at www.local.gov.uk/topics/economic-growth/digital-connectivitywww.local.gov.uk/. ‘A councillor’s guide to digital connectivity’ can be downloaded for free at www.local.gov.uk/publications.

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