Free basic broadband from ultrafast ISP
HYPEROPTIC have announced that they're partnering with a housing association to bring fibre to the home broadband connections to a number of social housing developments.
The pilot scheme will see six existing Hyde Housing Association developments in south London connected to the ISP's up to 1GB network by autumn this year.
Furthermore, everyone living in the chosen blocks will get a free 2Mb broadband service.
At the same time as the existing buildings are being connected, two new build sites will be added to the network, and the partnership could see more developments being connected in future.
'Help getting online'
For those of us grumbling about the speed of our existing broadband connections, the free 2Mb service may not seem like much.
For the time being at least, 2Mb is the minimum speed required to meet the Government's Universal Service Commitment, and the minimum that all households were supposed to be able to access by the end of 2015.
As we pointed out last month, however, being able to access a basic broadband service, and being able to use it are two rather different things.
Indeed, as Shaun Holdcroft of the Hyde Group explains, with 23% of their tenants offline compared to 14% in the UK as a whole, the association wanted a partnership that offered "something to help our offline social tenants to get online".
Basic reliable internet connectivity is now recognised as a must have, particularly as Government services move towards "digital by default".
For example, Universal Credit - which for many social housing residents will gradually replace their other benefits - can only be applied for online, and once it's been set up the payments need to be checked and organised online as well.
Then there are the other financial benefits: in 2014 it was estimated that someone getting online for the first time would benefit by more than £1,000 as a result of being able to get better deals on utilities and shopping, and increased employment prospects.
From 2Mb to 1Gb
So why, if getting people online at a basic level is so important, did the Hyde Group choose an ultrafast FTTP provider?
Mr Holdcroft says they were looking for a company with "experience in providing their services in new build developments as hyper fast reliable broadband is increasingly expected by our new customers".
Unsurprisingly, Hyperoptic's Dana Tobak agrees, saying that, "reliable, fast broadband access should be the norm, not the exception".
So as well as the free 2Mb service, residents can also choose from what Hyperoptic call "a number of affordable broadband and landline packages", including their usual 1Gb, 100Mb and 20Mb services, on both 12 month contract terms and on a month by month basis.
It's stretching it a little to call any of their 1Gb deals "affordable" in social housing terms - but their usual entry level deal, 20Mb fibre with evening and weekend calls, is actually very competitively priced:
There's more on Hyperoptic's different packages, and how much they cost compared to their more widely available competition, in our full review here.
As well as being somewhat unusual by offering fibre without a contract, Hyperoptic appear to have scored another point by making their flexible packages available without customers having to submit to a credit check.
For many people on lower incomes, or with less than brilliant credit histories, this is a real boon. There are very few ISPs who don't insist on running a credit check before accepting someone as a customer - we've looked into the other options here.
Indeed, Hyperoptic's usual terms and conditions state that by placing an order, customers accept that a credit check may be carried out - but not so in this case.
'Bridging the digital divide'
As mentioned above, the scheme will only benefit the residents of six existing developments in south London - three in Stockwell and three in Bermondsey - for the time being.
The two new build developments included in the initial agreement are in Southwark - another south London job - and Harrow.
It's not all that surprising that the agreement is focused on developments in the capital for now; Hyperoptic's fibre to the premises network is most cost effective when it can connect tens of flats or offices in one go.
The ISP say the agreement could be extended to more of Hyde's new build and existing blocks in the future; the housing association cover more than 50,000 properties in 12 counties in southern and eastern England as well as Greater London.
Now one housing association has gone into partnership with them, there's no reason others couldn't follow; Hyperoptic provide FTTP in 12 cities across the UK, all of which will have at least some higher density social housing.
It would certainly be in keeping with Dana Tobak's assertion that more people should be able to "enjoy living their online lives without compromise and bridge the digital divide".