Digital connectivity is hugely important and reliance on connectivity accelerated in an unprecedented manner during the COVID-19 pandemic. It made us all more reliant on phone networks and internet services to stay in touch, which is why they were designated as critical services by the Government.
It’s vital that people are able to keep connected, especially when access to healthcare, education and jobs has become increasingly dependent on digital connectivity.
The pandemic proved that the internet is a key utility for everyday life, and knowing how to use it is an essential skill, but many people are still missing out.
What help is available?
This page has signposting for if you need help to get online – i.e. where to go to access the internet and how to increase your digital skills. We also have details about social tariffs and how to get cheaper or better broadband and cheaper or better mobile coverage. At the bottom of the page there are links about public access Wifi and support for businesses.
Free Wifi and Digital Buddies
Cambridgeshire Libraries have free CambWifi and offer a range of activities plus Learn My Way courses to help people improve their digital skills using free resources.
Many libraries run 1-to-1 sessions with customers who want a bit of help using a computer, laptop or tablet. These sessions are offered by the library volunteers known as Digital Buddies.
Ask at your local library, or find out more about the County Council’s online library services.
Cambridgeshire Skills offer a range of online and classroom Digital Skills courses for all levels – from online shopping and banking to more advanced courses to develop your skills for the workplace and home – throughout the county.
If you are over 19 years and you don’t already hold an ICT qualification these courses are completely free.
Cambridge Online is a registered charity, with a team of digital champions helping people across the county to improve their digital skills including:
- Free individual support – with plans for a limited number of one-to-one digital skills sessions for people who have no other internet access and who need urgent help to get online – by
- Free supported access to online learning courses you can do at home. Help to set up a learning account and find a suitable course, with a coach to call if you get stuck.
- Specialist help for Charity and Community groups with Digital Skills Training and Support such as moving from manual paper systems to digital, understanding social media or spreadsheets and learning about internet safety or video calls.
Find out more at www.cambridgeonline.org.uk, call 01223 300407 to leave a message and get a call back, email email@example.com or view a quick list of useful links to things that might help you get online.
Cambridgeshire Digital Partnership
Cambridgeshire Digital Partnership (CDP) is a network set up to bring people together to connect, communicate and champion for digital inclusion in Cambridgeshire.
CDP deliver quarterly online network meetings with the opportunity for supporters to give updates, hear from guest speakers on best practice, work together to create resources and promote digital inclusion. Find out more about the partnership and how your organisation can join as a supporter via the CDP website.
Skills for Tomorrow
Skills for Tomorrow is BT’s ambitious digital skills programme which aims to give 10 million people in the UK the skills they need for the future. Working with leading digital skills organisations, the programme provides free resources, information, advice and webinars to help school children, families, jobseekers and businesses across the UK. These include a series of educational and fun activities to support home learning for children aged 4-11.
Visit www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow to find online help for children and teachers, families, young people, older and vulnerable people.
Good Things Foundation
Organised by the Good Things Foundation, Get Online Week is the UK’s biggest digital inclusion campaign – mobilising grassroots organisations to reach more people with digital skills support, and raising the profile of digital exclusion as an issue of national importance.
The Good Things Foundation network is made up of thousands of community partners in the UK. It reaches deep into communities to help people gain the support and skills they need to change their lives and overcome social challenges.
Connecting Cambridgeshire supports Get Online Week every year, to highlight help for people to get online and improve their digital skills by working with Cambridgeshire Libraries and Cambridgeshire Skills to signpost people to help available across the county.
Faster Internet connections are making a huge impact on businesses and communities, allowing people to work flexibly, be entertained, keep in touch, and access public services wherever they are.
Most homes and businesses across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough can now upgrade to superfast broadband of at least 24Mbps (and often much faster) but there are a range of options to help people cope with poor broadband connections.
If you want to upgrade your broadband speed, find out if you can get superfast or faster broadband already by using our postcode checker and visit our how to get better broadband page and follow the steps or find out about the other options available.
Tips to improve your current speed
Check the Home Broadband Networks guide for advice on how to maximise broadband speeds and capacity while working from home.
One of our long-standing Broadband Champions has provided some useful tips to help improve your current broadband speeds and details can be found on his Increase Broadband Speed website.
Reduced broadband tariffs
Some providers offer reduced tariffs for households and existing customers claiming certain benefits.
BT launched Home Essentials in July 2021, a social tariff for financially vulnerable individuals who are on specific means-tested benefits (such as Universal Credit or Pension Credit) to offer a low-cost telephone and broadband package fibre broadband. And Virgin Media offers existing customers on benefits a 15Mb connection for £15/mth.
Anyone on Universal Credit with no supplementary income is eligible for a free super-fast broadband connection if they are with an Openreach provider, from October 2021, via their ‘Connect the Unconnected’ programme.
There is a round-up of all the broadband social tariffs on the Money Saving Expert website which lists the full qualifying criteria for each one (plus info on a different scheme for jobseekers from TalkTalk):
- Sky Broadband Basics – 36Mb broadband £20/mth for 18 months
- NOW Broadband Basics – 38Mb broadband £20/mth for 18 months
- BT – 36Mb broadband £15/mth
- Virgin Media – 15Mb broadband £15/mth
- Hyperoptic – 50Mb broadband £15/mth
- TalkTalk – 38Mb broadband free for six months for jobseekers
If you’re not on benefits, there’s also help and advice about how to find out about other cheap deals on comparison websites such as the Money Saving Expert website.
Gigabit Broadband Vouchers and Project Gigabit
Could your premises be eligible for a rural voucher to get faster, more reliable fibre broadband?
In January 2022, Building Digital UK launched their Project Gigabit procurement to find a supplier to connect approximately 49,000 premises in Cambridgeshire and adjacent areas to gigabit-capable broadband. A contract with a supplier is expected to be awarded in November 2022, with work commencing soon afterward.
To avoid duplication of government subsidies, the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme has been paused in areas targeted by the procurement.
Areas outside the procurement area may still be eligible for a voucher. To check your postcode, please visit the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme website.
Mobile phones or landlines are particularly essential for vulnerable people who are on their own, and those without internet access, to get food, medicines and other support they need.
Reduced mobile tariffs
Many people are also facing financial uncertainty and the more vulnerable members of our communities may need a bit of extra help.
The UK’s major mobile and internet service providers have acknowledged the cost of living crisis and responded by offering a range of support for all their customers, including concessions for NHS frontline workers, the most vulnerable and people in financial hardship.
Mobile UK has put together some information to explain some of the actions the industry is taking, information on how to get into contact with each mobile operator, and some additional useful advice that may be helpful on their website.
Mobile tips and advice
Use the online Ofcom checker to view the best mobile phone coverage in your area.
Here are some tips to improve your Mobile Phone Coverage.
Public access Wifi
Connecting Cambridgeshire is expanding free public access Wifi to help people get online, support businesses and make it easier to access vital public services and help keep communities connected.
The programme is working with partners to increase CambWifi provision in public buildings, open spaces, market town centres and village halls in rural areas to improve digital connectivity.
Find out more about free public access Wifi in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Support for businesses
Visit our Connecting Businesses page to find out about any grants or current support available to help businesses.
If you need further advice on digital connectivity, please contact the Connecting Cambridgeshire team by email on firstname.lastname@example.org stating your address, postcode, and situation.