The Internet Is Not A Luxury.  It needs to be said before we go any further.

If you have children, they need it for homework and studies.  They need it to send in assignments and to keep up to date with coursework.  “Libraries!” I hear some of you shouting, “Go to an Internet Cafe!”  All well and good, but for a lot of people, their nearest library is in the centre of their town or city and would mean a two mile walk each way.  Sometimes more.  The walk would have to be done daily after school–because buses are not cheap and feet are free.  This is, of course, after leaving the house at 7:30am, walking the half an hour to school in all weathers and putting in a full day of studying.  Internet Cafes’ charge for the privilege of using the computers.  It is not a viable option for most.

To not have the internet at home, a child from a poor family would have to stay out of the family home for approximately (in our case and based on the distances my daughter walks to school) another three hours.  She would not get home until around 7pm at night…and would have to walk in the dark, through a not-exactly-great area of the city (neither myself or my husband drive; we cannot afford a car…and cannot afford the lessons anyway).  Meg is a straight A student.  She dreams of university life and becoming a doctor.  It is all she has wanted to do since she was four years old.  At just turned sixteen, she keeps a relentless study schedule.  She works from 8.00am through to 9.00pm as it is.  At home, she is safe, [mostly]warm and can eat her dinner as she studies.

The Internet Is Essential.  We are told the way to lift ourselves high and achieve riches untold, is to be well-educated and get a professional career.  Are only the children of the comfortable and the rich allowed to follow this dream?  Are the children of the poor to be raised with the depressing knowledge in their young heads that their lot in life is to serve the children of the rich?  To clean, and sweep and toil and slave, with no hope of realising their aspirations and dreams…because school work now requires an internet connection, to get the best education available.  Each time a struggling family is told their internet is a luxury, they are told their children do not deserve the access to it in the home.  They are told their children should be thankful for their lot, and stay in the ‘place’ they were born.

There are disabled people, housebound and alone for weeks on end.  They do not have the option of walking the two miles (or more) to their library, to be able to sit down and make some contact with relatives living apart from them.  To see pictures of their newest little cousins, or a new grandchild.  They cannot spare the money from their living allowances or benefits to use an internet cafe.  To say to them that the Internet is a luxury they can do without, to save money, is to isolate them and cage them in their loneliness.  The quality of life of the elderly and infirm increases dramatically, if they are taught to use a computer, laptop or even a smart-phone, and can access and utilise the web.  Depression caused by isolated living is lifted, just a little.  Shopping can be done, friends spoken with, people contacted, programmes watched.  The Internet is essential.  That they need to choose between eating, heating, or human contact is appalling, and they should not be expected to make that choice.

Job seekers are told, by the Job Centre, to apply for an initial interview online.  School Admittance Forms? Fill them out online.  Best grocery offers?  Online.  Job searching?  Property rental?  Council Housing Register?  You’ve guessed it–it’s all online.

Is it reasonable, therefore, to look at the poorest sections of our society and tell them to save money–sometimes as little as £6.99 a month–by getting rid of their internet.  Are we, as a society, so judgemental that we believe those in the poorest households must sit in the dark, without a television, without a computer, without communication?  Is that what we have become, now, thanks to the portrayal of poverty in the media?  To take away the web, is to disconnect more than Google.  It is to disconnect ourselves.

If you are affected by any of these issues and would like to chat, or ask for help, please do contact my Facebook page HERE.  I answer all messages that come through to me and will always try to point you in the right direction if you need help/advice.

10 thoughts on “Disconnect The Poor In The Internet Age

  1. My brother is disabled and lives on benefits. He recently stopped living with my 76 year old father and moved into a care facility which has been a very positive move overall. However there was no internet access at the home and all of the packages are aimed at working people. We have had to install and pay for a monthly phone line so he can get ‘free’ internet. Internet is his life line but in benefits he cannot afford it. We are subsidising him at the moment but many disabled people will not have that option. I think that’s wrong and that providers should give a disabled option

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  2. It shocks me how much of a difference these people think 10 euro a week would make to a Grocery bill versus job searching, avoiding isolation, keeping up with current affairs, Skype and other free call services, and entertainment.

    I forgot of course if you’re in the grey area you’re meant to live like a cave person because if you don’t you couldn’t possibly be poor.

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  3. I can’t edit my comment! (On my mobile I cannot see what I’m typing in this box as the text is almost rendered invisible against the white)

    I meant off course

    Sigh! Autocorrect!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well said Kathleen. I think sometimes people don’t realise just how much we have all become dependent on the internet. My sister cannot afford a computer or broadband and when she was looking for a job I was helping her every day by looking up jobs for her and then she decided whether to walk all the way to the library to apply for them. She lives 120 miles away from me so she can’t pop round to use my computer. It’s a world which we have created for ourselves and we shouldn’t penalise and exclude the poor from it.

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  5. Hi Kathleen. I don’t often comment via the internet, but your words about poverty in the UK have struck some sort of chord within me, so here goes. Your comments about access to the internet for schoolchildren also rings true with me. My children have passed school age. My youngest is now at university, but when they were at school they would come home, log on, and do their homework on the computer. I asked them about children at school whose families did not have a computer. They told me that those children either had to stay on at school or go to the public library to use a computer. It struck me that unless those children had some reason to not be at home they were not going to be able to do what they were expected to do. I guess there will be some that suggest that if those children were dedicated they could have completed their homework. However, I think that viewpoint misses an understanding of learning. It misses the point about stopping and allowing the brain to absorb what it has just taken in, and to be able to synthesise with other ideas and theories. How do you stop, get up from a desk in a public place and walk away to think, believing that your property is going to be safe. My children had the ability to stop and walk away from the screen knowing that everything around the desk and on the screen was safe. That could have a brew, they could switch off and watch TV for a while (you know, some daft cartoon or such) or they could ask questions of someone they knew and trusted. They had the comfort of a parent popping their head round the door to say “I’m making a tea, do you want one?” (The answer was always “yes please”), and the knowledge that a meal was being made (I am sure that somewhere my name got changed to Dadwhatsfortea, as in “Hi Dad, what’s for tea?”). I knew that my children had an advantage over other children and it made me sad. It made me realise that the gap between an underclass whose families did not have the resources to learn, and an educated rest, could only get wider. Thank you for your blog Kathleen. And I have purchased one of your books, so thanks for keeping me awake last night – I couldn’t put it down – I have had to sleep in and put back what I was doing. (It’s ok, I am on leave from work and it is only a spot of DIY that is being held up). Best wishes and blessings. Trasgo.

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  6. The internet is not a luxury. It is necessary nowadays for jobseekers, children for their homework plus research. Also, it is a great boon to the elderly and enables them to keep in touch and learn new skills. I’m 73 on Saturday, never had a computer lesson, mostly self-taught and I love my laptop. I write poetry and short stories, mainly for fun and have made many friends on various poetry self publishing a few books on LULU. If I were not online I’d have had no idea how to go about this.

    I was still working full time as a care assistant up to a few years ago, but had to give up due to knee problems, though have got brand new ones now. At the time it was agony walking anywhere, so the internet was a great lifeline for me.

    Good luck with your writing Kathleen.


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  7. I was in isolation for ~6 months. I had to pay £7/wk to watch a TV (with only 5 channels and bad reception), and pay £15/30 days for an intermittent wifi connection — which was my lifeline between being stuck in isolation awaiting a life saving bone marrow transplant, and having some (albeit limited) contact with the outside world.

    Could I afford it? Not really. But, being stuck in hospital, I wasn’t buying much, so that covered that. But for contact, I did not have the option of a library or Internet cafe. Even when you’re sick, these commodities are seen as a luxury 😦


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