How many people in the UK don’t use the internet?

There are homes without internet connectivity across the UK, for reasons ranging from fear and distrust to poverty and chaotic lifestyles

Thursday, 3 June, 2021

It’s remarkable to think there are still numerous homes without internet across the UK.

Ofcom calculated last month that 1.5 million properties had no internet access, meaning several million people are unable to go online from a computer or tablet.

In fairness, some of those homes could access the web on a smartphone if they wanted to, since even a basic Nokia 3310 is capable of browsing the internet and receiving email.

And the repossessed crack den shown in the photo accompanying this article certainly had no need for high-speed connectivity.

However, it might seem surprising that an entire swathe of the population has no broadband connection or router – until you start analysing why…

The information hard shoulder

One interesting takeaway from Ofcom’s most recent survey of UK dwellings was that the percentage of homes without internet access has almost halved compared to early 2020.

It’s estimated that lockdown galvanised over a million households into taking out an internet subscription.

Without it, people would have struggled to book online grocery slots, work from home, give their children access to remote learning, or even keep in touch with friends and loved ones.

Indeed, there’s a virtuous (or vicious) circle whereby more people online means more online services, making it progressively harder to remain offline.

People still living without connectivity will be doing so for one of several reasons.

First and foremost, home internet access may simply be an unaffordable luxury, especially given the financial challenges many households have endured over the last 15 months.

Secondly, a (dwindling) number of older people have made a conscious decision not to bother going online, having reached this point in their lives without it.

Some isolated properties are effectively off-grid. If a dwelling doesn’t receive running water or mains electricity, fibre broadband won’t be present, either.

There’s a school of thought among certain subcultures like the minimalism movement that the internet is harmful, and remaining offline supports a healthier lifestyle.

And then there are those chaotic households where paying a broadband subscription simply doesn’t figure as a priority.

How easy is life offline?

During the coronavirus pandemic, it would have been lonely and very challenging, which is why the number of UK homes without internet has halved.

However, the demographics mentioned above would all have muddled through.

If you can’t afford broadband, you can’t afford it, however beneficial it might be.

Old people might be deterred by the prospect of getting to grips with web browsers, video camera settings and malware.

If your home is off-grid, satellite internet represents the only way to secure a stable connection.

And if you don’t like the internet’s content, the prospect of being able to Zoom-call your boss or book a Tesco slot is unlikely to bring people to the BroadbandDeals website.

For everyone else feeling suddenly grateful that their home has a broadband router, your next internet contract could be a few mouse-clicks away…

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!