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6/10/2013
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British Unemployed Offered Low-Cost Net Access

Ultra-low-cost broadband and refurbished desktops and laptops is digital access nonprofit's latest bid to get underprivileged online.

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The U.K.'s official digital champion Martha Lane Fox has unveiled the next step in her mission to boost Internet access: offer computers and broadband at drastically reduced prices to the underprivileged.

An estimated 10.8 million Brits age 15 and older have no access to the Internet, according to the BBC.

Fox, a former dot-com startup leader whose advice has had a profound effect on the government's "digital by default" effort, says that with her proposed discounts, a household currently without Internet access could change that for under £60 ($93) a year.

[ Read about Britain's latest outsourcing kerfuffle. See O2 Call Center Layoff Details Leaked. ]

Lane's digital access non-profit, Get Online@Home, already offers heavily reduced prices for computer equipment, such as refurbished desktops for under £100 ($155) and laptops for £150 ($233).

The new program goes even further by offering desktops for as little as £24 ($37) bundled with broadband for £2.99 ($4.64) a month if the applicant is on welfare.

Recycling organization Partners IT is among the groups helping to supply the hardware. Applicants can choose from among broadband deals provided through Simplifydigital.

Fox, recently made an honorary member of the House of Lords, said in a statement, "With the cost of Internet access cited as a key reason for not being online, this is an incredible savings and will transform the lives of everyone who hasn't been able to get online before."

Get Online@Home has supplied over 23,000 computers to the underprivileged since its 2011 launch. The new program's refurbished PCs and laptops are designed to support basic home IT. Both desktops and laptops, for instance, have at minimum a 2-GHz processor, a 60-GB hard drive and the Windows 7 Pro operating system with Microsoft Office Basic productivity software installed. Laptops have a 14-inch screen.

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