Faster broadband 'saves cash, time'
Super-fast broadband will save British households a total of £270 million and 60 million hours of leisure time each year by 2024 , a new report predicts.
Better connectivity would help more people save cash by avoiding commuting and cut a nnual business travel by 3.3 billion miles (5.3 billion km) a year - around 9% of the current annual UK total - research on the Government's broadband investment states.
A net employment rise of about 56,000 jobs by 2024 is also predicted although this figure has a relatively high degree of uncertainty with 90% of results suggesting between 30,000 and 80,000 jobs would emerge, it adds.
The research also believes every £1 of taxpayers' cash invested in the project is estimated to provide a net return of £20 while faster broadband speeds could add about £17 billion to the UK's annual Gross Value Added, which measures contributions to the economy, by 2024.
The findings are contained in the UK Broadband Impact Study Impact Report, by analysts SQW with Cambridge Econometrics.
British Telecom has secured several contracts to deliver access to super-fast broadband connections to 90% of the UK by 2015, in line with Government targets.
But the Commons spending watchdog - the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) - last month raised concerns that consumers were not benefiting from healthy competition in this project, adding BT had all of the 26 contracts let by June 2013 and was expected to secure the remaining 18.
Rhondda Labour MP Chris Bryant repeated claims in the House of Commons this month that BT had been given a ''bung'' by the Government, making it almost impossible for other operators to compete to provide broadband in semi-rural areas. The suggestion was denied by the Government.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said of the new research: "What this report shows us is that, as well as super-fast broadband being good for economic growth, it will make even more of a positive impact on the way we live, helping us work more productively and get online faster.
"Our broadband roll-out is one of the best in Europe, with almost three-quarters of the UK able to access super-fast speeds. This is making a real difference to people in communities across the UK from small businesses able to expand, schoolchildren being able to log on to do their homework or people being able to work from home. This investment in technology is vital for our future and will help Britain continue to compete in the global race and improve the way we live and work."
The report believes barriers to employment will be reduced for people as broadband improves and expects some carers would be willing to take up a part-time job from home.
It also assumes a proportion of disabled unemployed people would find it "easier" to seek and secure "suitable work" based at their own homes.
On people working from home, the report states: "We estimate that the increase in teleworking facilitated by faster broadband will save about 60 million hours of leisure time per annum in the UK by 2024 (of which about 10 million hours are attributable to publicly-funded intervention).
"By avoiding commuting costs, the additional teleworking enabled by faster broadband will lead to total household savings rising to £270 million per annum by 2024 (£45 million of which are attributable to intervention)."
It adds: "The underlying hypothesis for our model is that speed matters: faster broadband will enable businesses and individuals to change the way they do things."