20 March 2020

PRESS RELEASE: #Operation WiFi

Call to create the largest free to use Open WiFi network.

PRESS

In response to COVID-19, Community Organisers and community partners including KeyRing have launched #OperationWiFi – a campaign to create the largest free to use open WiFi network for communities during the outbreak.

Over 15 million people are either not online or cannot get online regularly due to low income. As coronavirus cases increase, and Government takes further measures to reduce its spread, more and more people are going to face restrictions on their movements and opportunities to connect.

With school closures facing England on Monday 23rd March and community venues closing their doors, the use of technology for learning and connecting is going to be ever more important.

A team of Community Organisers are mobilising a national campaign that hopes to get the attention of key Government ministers and civil servants who can open up the airwaves.

 

Charlie Crabtree, Communications Manager at KeyRing says

‘We support people across the country to live independently in the community. Our model connects them to build support beyond services. Friendships. We have been considering ways to keep people connected with each other without being able to host our usual meet ups.

35% of the people we support do not have access to the internet at home so things like video calling are not an option. We are concerned that people will begin to feel isolated and may even build up huge mobile phone bills in their attempts to stay connected’.

 

Sacha Bedding, CEO of the Wharton Trust in Hartlepool, has been supporting the community to respond to the coronavirus by providing StayingWell packs for the community dropped on people’s doorsteps. He explained, “We know that at this time, access to the internet is invaluable, in fact, in order to stay safe, stay connected and stay informed, it’s as important as any core utility. We also know that for many people in the Dyke House area of Hartlepool it is beyond reach. They simply cannot afford broadband connections and rely on mobile data services, predominantly from a pay as you go provider. Access in this way is expensive and often piecemeal as the upfront costs for an accessible level of data is way in excess of what is affordable. £30 worth of data or £30 worth of food; is not a choice that should have to be made now.”

The same is being heard in Birkenhead, Eve Barrett reported how in conversation with local mums, concerns were raised about how parents with limited or no access are going to keep their children engaged with schoolwork over the coming weeks. Eve said, “more and more of school learning is going online with the use of iPads and technology in school, parents do not have access to the technology or the broadband to enable them to replicate what they do at school’.

 

If you would like to support the #OperationWifi campaign, please visit their 38Degrees petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/free-open-wifi-network-connecting-communities-during-covid-19

ENDS

 

Contact details: For more information or interviews please contact

Nick Gardham at Community Organisers 0773 469 4626 nick.gardham@corganisers.org.uk

Charlie Crabtree at KeyRing 07904 547 533 charlie.crabtree@keyring.org 

 

Notes to editors:

KeyRing is a national social care charity that uses networks of support to build independence amongst people who are vulnerable. Our key client groups are people who have a learning diasbility and people who have with mental health issues: www.keyring.org

 

Community Organisers is a national charity, and the membership body and training organisation for community organising in England: www.corganisers.org.uk

 

#OperationWiFi – Free, open WiFi network connecting communities during Covid-19 – The petition to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: #OperationWiFi on 38Degrees

The #OperationWiFi website

Archive: