We’ve been in the digital slow lane for far too long

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It’s a sad reflection on society when the educational success of our children depends on the speed of their parents’ internet connection.

Who would have thought just 10 years ago we would return to a two-tier education system because of something as arcane as megabytes per second?

Kathy Wadsworth, the director of regeneration at Portsmouth City Council, spells it out today when she says: ‘Children who have reliable broadband at home achieve better GCSE results than those who don’t.’

She was speaking after Chancellor George Osborne announced that Portsmouth was, at last, to emerge from the digital slow lane and get super-fast broadband coverage, apparently, everywhere in the city. It’s a move we welcome, cautiously.

It is overdue for a city attempting to pull itself out of recession by offering tempting treats to businesses seeking to relocate here. A high-speed broadband connection was not one of them.

Ms Wadsworth adds: ‘Our ambition is to be a globally competitive economy and this means our residents and businesses need access to the best technology.’

Currently only 88 per cent of the city is able to connect to super-fast broadband because the hardware which makes it zing does not exist.

The council had applied for £6m from the Urban Broadband Fund. Mr Osborne has approved it. Which is all very well if you live in Portsmouth and if that super-fast connectivity actually works and does not cost the consumer a fortune.

But what about those living in the surrounding area, particularly those in rural fringes such as the Meon Valley, Rowlands Castle or villages around Chichester?

There is little hope of them getting this form of connectivity soon. In these areas broadband speeds are half what they are in Portsmouth at the moment, let alone what they will be after super-fast is introduced.

Like the city children whose parents do not have decent broadband connections, they too are being treated like second-class citizens. It is wrong. They should be given the same advantages as their urban cousins.

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