A partnership between ForHousing and Openreach is bringing gigabit-capable broadband to 17,000 homes in Salford and Knowlsey, enabling tenants to become more digitally connected.
The social landlord has become the first in the country to have had pure fibre connectivity – known as full fibre – retrofitted to all 17 of its high-rise blocks.
To date, 12,000 ForHousing homes have been fitted with full fibre, with the rest due to be upgraded in 2021.
At some point in the future, the copper network in the UK will be switched off, and homes will need to have full fibre to access broadband, in much the same way as analogue TV was switched off in favour of digital.
Openreach has been focussing on getting the UK ready for the full fibre upgrade, which will bring faster, more reliable connectivity along with greater choice for consumers.
ForHousing is also currently looking at fibre broadband products and packages that will be affordable for tenants.
Jenny Chapman, group director of Innovation and Excellence at ForViva, said: “Digital inclusion is key to fighting poverty, creating routes to work and enabling children to succeed in school.
“We recognise how important digital access is and it is a key aspect of our wellbeing strategy.
“More than a third (37%) of those who are digitally excluded are social housing tenants.”
ForHousing says having no access to the internet can lead to a ‘digital exclusion tax’, mean those who can’t get online are unable to get the ‘best’ deals, with some studies finding households are losing out on up to £400 each year.
ForHousing, like much of the social housing sector, is moving toward providing housing services digitally, and many government services are now ‘digital by default’ – including Universal Credit.
“Providing services digitally is often more convenient and the growing expectation of many tenants who increasingly use digital channels elsewhere,” said Chapman. “They now expect their landlord to provide similar services.
“The cost of digital transactions is also significantly lower, which enables not for profit organisations to focus more resources where the need is greatest.
“We all have a lot to gain from helping people get online.”
Kim Mears OBE, Openreach’s managing director for Strategic Infrastructure Development, said: “By working collaboratively with ForHousing, we’ve brought some of the UK’s fastest, most reliable broadband within reach of a further 12,000 homes in Salford and Knowsley, with thousands more set to follow.
“Due to wayleaves, and often disinterest by landlords, getting this new technology into apartments and high-rise buildings can be a challenge.
“ForHousing understand the importance of ensuring their tenants have access to future-proof broadband and have worked with us to overcome obstacles and make it happen. We want to replicate this across the UK.
“Work of this type is free of charge and our engineers don’t leave visible wiring, or need to access individual properties and, of course, they’re following all current COVID-19 guidance.”
ForHousing says work is ongoing to upgrade existing connections to fibre across the rest of its properties.
ForHousing is part of the ForViva Group and owns and manages more than 24,000 homes across the North West.
Image: ForHousing’s Charter House