The new world of hybrid working is fluid. One size will not fit all. While working remotely has become the norm, going back to the office will take many different forms. But regardless of working patterns or locations, the fact remains that we are more dependent than ever on having a stable, fast, and secure internet connection in our daily lives.
Bandwidth is now required not just by our laptops, but also by our mobile devices, Internet of Things (IoT) products, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and streaming services. We are spending more time in our homes than ever before, and when there are multiple people in the same house, the fight for bandwidth can lead to a host of connectivity issues.
New research published today by Cisco ‘Cisco Broadband Index’ clearly shows the frustration people are feeling about their current access to connectivity, and their expectations of policymakers to speed up improvements. Cisco surveyed thousands of workers in six major European countries and found that 81% of workers are demanding their governments accelerate plans to deliver high-speed, reliable internet connections, as some find themselves at the mercy of slow and patchy home broadband whilst doing their best to stay productive.
The research went on to find that 76% of people consider quick and reliable internet to be crucial for rebuilding economies, while 78% believe connectivity has now transcended technology and become a necessity, as they try to settle into new work-life routines. In this time of hybrid work, the connection is critical. 53% of people surveyed now consider investment in universal connectivity to be as important as spending to maintain public utilities infrastructure. The speed of economic recovery will be dictated by the speed of broadband infrastructure.
While governments in all markets surveyed have publicly committed to improving connectivity, workers want to see a much faster pace of change. They want access to higher-speed, more reliable internet, and they want it fast, as countries strive to leave the pandemic behind. However, despite current efforts, the digital divide continues to be a challenge. Almost half (46%) of people across the countries surveyed say unreliable connection meant they missed out on access to critical services such as online medical check-ups or homeschooling.
Insufficient internet access is a wide-reaching problem that touches people across all age groups, income brackets, and levels of education. For many low-income families, there is a knock-on effect if investment in readily available broadband is not prioritized now. Cost is key – with seven out of ten (70%) worrying that low-income families will suffer most from a lack of connectivity, as they may be unable to afford broadband. This creates a different divide – the haves and have-nots. Two-thirds (66%) agreed affordability will become a major global issue in the months and years to come if action is not taken quickly.
To support a sustainable recovery, policymakers and Service Providers must make sure connectivity becomes a level playing field, working faster and harder than ever to provide access to essential digital services. That means continually reimagining the network that connects us all and enabling us to move forward to a brighter, more inclusive future for all.
If connectivity is a “precondition” for achieving the digital agenda we have to change the economics of the internet to ensure broadband infrastructure reaches every household, regardless of income.