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Government Open Source The Internet United Kingdom Linux

UK To Offer PCs For £98, Subsidized Internet Connections 224

Posted by timothy
from the where's-your-non-television-license? dept.
Sam writes "The UK government wants to offer low-cost computers as part of a 12-month trial during Race Online 2012. The scheme, which aims to reach out to the 9.2 million adults that are not yet online, 4 million of whom are considered socially and economically disadvantaged, aims to 'make the UK the first nation in the world where everyone can use the web.' Prices will start at £98 ($156.01) for a refurbished PC, with subsidized Internet connections available for as little as £9 ($14.33) a month or £18 ($28.65) for three months. The cheap computers will run open-source software (think Linux) and will include a flat-screen monitor, keyboard, mouse, dedicated telephone helpline, delivery, and even a warranty. The cheap Internet packages will use a mobile dongle to help people access the web."
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UK To Offer PCs For £98, Subsidized Internet Connections

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  • by toQDuj (806112) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @05:10AM (#34925366) Homepage Journal

    I fear the "open source software" will be very quickly replaced with "windows", just like what happened with the OLPC.

    • by Bert64 (520050)

      And will probably be a pretty half assed linux distro, instead of a usable one...

      • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @05:15AM (#34925386) Homepage Journal

        If over a decade of Linux distros has taught us one thing, it is that one man's "half assed" is another man's "usable".

        • Unstable distros offer me more security than any Windows release. (Except Windows ME)

        • by jimicus (737525)

          If over a decade of Linux distros has taught us one thing, it is that one man's "half assed" is another man's "usable".

          Go look up cheap Linux PCs and laptops. There's a few e-tailers keep them for real bottom-of-the barrel customers, and they do occasionally ship with Linux - but they're generally just sold as ordinary low-end PCs with very little marketing push rather than "New! Buy now! Comes with Linux! OMG S00P3R D34L!11".

          In particular, I want you to look at sites which keep customer reviews (and don't seem to be actively editing out the ones that aren't complimentary).

          Every time I've seen these - and they do come up f

    • Of course the cost would go up by about $100 if Windows was used. Assuming bulk VLK licensing issued for to government contracts get a 20% discount per copy. I feel reluctant linking to the Microsoft products price page ... so so dirty...

      • by toQDuj (806112)

        I think they would gladly make an "exception" here and offer it for free.

      • Dont forget about the hardware cost, They cant possibly offer windows XP, with it being EOL (only extended support for businesses), so these system would need the hardware to run windows 7, which would cost more then a system capable of running XP/ubuntu

    • just like what happened with the OLPC.

      You mean, you fear that it won't? Is this some convoluted ex falso quodlibet argument? I fear that you will be destroyed in a nuclear fireball, just like what happened to London in the Second World War.

    • by Teun (17872) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @06:51AM (#34925814) Homepage
      I'm not so sure.

      These are especially elderly and others that have never been in a position 'to get used' to the Windows environment.
      I've set op Linux computers for such people and they just don't know any different.

      But after they had visiting family & friends I sometimes have to reassert they really don't need anti-virus.

      • by toQDuj (806112)

        The argument MS would make to the government would be that "knowledge of Windows is a marketable skill, as a majority of the people are using it." in a sort of circular argument.

        • by tomhudson (43916)
          Since more people use Google than just use Windows (since you can access Google from desktop, mobile, etc) and Google runs on Linux, knowledge of Linux is a marketable skill, as a majority of people are using it.
  • by zero.kalvin (1231372) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @05:11AM (#34925368)
    I think this is a great move. Kudos!
  • My mother can get 3G broadband for 12 AUD per month. Thats the same as USD at the moment and its in a country with low load factors and expensive infrastructure.

    • by Elbereth (58257) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @05:22AM (#34925438) Journal

      It's not too bad, really, though I think you might be able to do better with some careful shopping on ebay and using public wifi. The big difference is that you'd be getting support from these guys, rather than depending on a computer geek friend. That's important to a lot of people.

    • by Nick Fel (1320709)
      Welcome to the UK. Our £/Mbps/month has always sucked.
    • by Xest (935314)

      Yes, you can get upto 8mbps in the UK for £5 on a decent ISP, or even free with some package deals, so I'm not sure why this subsidised internet still costs £9. That doesn't sound very subsidised to me, I suspect in typical inept British public sector style the government chose some pet contractor like Capita or similar to run the scheme and that pet contractor is trying to milk it from both ends by getting paid by the government to provide broadband to these folk and by running an ISP that turn

      • Yes, you can get upto 8mbps in the UK for £5 on a decent ISP

        And a big fat [citation needed] there. If you are using ADSL, then you have a £10.50 line rental to BT, plus whatever your ISP charges. If you have a LLU exchange, then you might be able to pay £6-7 line rental to some other company. If you go with cable, the cheapest package is £20/month.

        With ADSL, that's assuming you are in an urban area. My mother lives in North Devon and can only get a little over 1Mb/s from her 'up to 8Mb/s' ADSL because she's so far from the exchange. This is

        • by Xest (935314)

          "And a big fat [citation needed] there. If you are using ADSL, then you have a £10.50 line rental to BT, plus whatever your ISP charges. If you have a LLU exchange, then you might be able to pay £6-7 line rental to some other company. If you go with cable, the cheapest package is £20/month."

          It's a bit dishonest to try and factor in BT's line rental, because so few people, even the poorest in society don't have an existing line of some sort. I'll concede however that you're right, you can't

          • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @08:14AM (#34926296) Journal

            It's a bit dishonest to try and factor in BT's line rental, because so few people, even the poorest in society don't have an existing line of some sort

            Absolutely untrue. In my age group, almost no one has a landline because mobiles are much cheaper. Even relatively heavy users spend about £10 on prepay topups, while I pay about £2. Having a landline does not make economic sense. For poorer people, it's even more of a problem because they have to pay a large fee (£50 or so) to be connected in the first place. If they're moving house between different low-cost rented accommodation frequently, they don't bother with a landline. A mobile phone can be had very cheaply and, if you mainly need it for incoming calls (i.e. people who might offer you a job) costs next to nothing to operate.

            this seems more targetted at the folks who simply aren't interested in the internet

            No, it's targeted at people who can't afford the Internet. Read their documentation - they claim that being online saves an average of £537/year and that this is most important for people with a very low income, who typically can't afford the up-front capital cost of getting online. They are people who are often moving quite often to look for work, so can't afford any kind of Internet access that has an installation fee or requires a long contract in the same dwelling.

      • Yes, you can get upto 8mbps in the UK for £5 on a decent ISP
        If you are getting ADSL at that price in the UK and it's not a time limited offer you are on a really shitty ISP, heavilly traffic limited or most likely both.

        Further pretty much all internet prices in the UK assume you either already have a fixed BT phone line* or will be taking (and paying for) phone service/line rental (some phone providers quote for line rental and call packages together, some quote for them seperately) from the provider

        • by Xest (935314)

          "If you are getting ADSL at that price in the UK and it's not a time limited offer you are on a really shitty ISP, heavilly traffic limited or most likely both."

          This is true, but light users, which will be the target demographic here aren't ever going to notice the difference. They don't need an uncontended, uncapped service because they'll never use it. It'll still provide all they need for quick web browsing, e-mailing, youtube videos and that sort of thing.

          This is the sort of package the vast majority of

          • This is true, but light users, which will be the target demographic here aren't ever going to notice the difference
            True, I only mentioned that bit because you said decent ISP, if you had said shitty ISP i'd have agreed with you.

            The bigger issue is the one I mentioned in my second paragraph, if you already have a phone line and are prepared to sign a 12 month contract you can get (shitty) internet on top for less than this goverment package will cost. If you don't have a phone line or don't feel you can comm

  • Nice idea but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hughbar (579555) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @05:19AM (#34925422) Homepage
    I live in the East End of London and am already involved in this kind of approach, but on a small scale and informally. So I think it's a a pretty good approach to supply of the basics and a better way than just stripping down perfectly viable PCs.

    But, the big but, is training and support. Here Linux [we're mainly Ubuntu and variants] is slightly better because it doesn't get trashed by viruses immediately and file permissions etc. make things easier to lock down. However, I've spent 7 years on/off training people and the web, email, looking for stuff, deciding whether to trust sites etc etc. is NOT intuitive and searching, especially, is a hard subject.

    So, without training, many of these PC will be underused and languish, as so many provided under various schemes do now. We prefer drop-ins currently, they're more sociable and mean you can train/help several people at once and they can provide peer support and discovery. Also, the connections can be consolidated and needn't go through mobile networks.

    Just my 2p [that's a pence, non-UK folk] on this.
    • Kids learn really fast though, if a lot of those families have kids in them they'll figure out how to use everything in a few weeks and can teach their parents, not to mention they probably do ICT in school.
  • by Zedrick (764028) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @06:23AM (#34925672)
    "make the UK the first nation in the world where everyone can use the web". Right.

    Most scandinavian countries probably reached this goal at least 5 years ago. The last person I knew who didn't have a computer (or internet connection) was my great-great grandmother, who died in 1997. My grandmother got her computer (winpc) and some kind of Windows 95 certification (that included IE) around 1996... And younger people are not less technical.

    Sure, you can probably find some hermit out in the forests of northern Sweden who don't have any internet connection (or electricity), but I don't think that really counts.

    In other words, great initiative, but there's no need to make up silly claims like that.
  • That's retarded a desktop PC with a crappy mobile Internet Connection.
    Either sell Desktops with Broadband or laptops with dongles.

    And the prices aren't that spectacular - I've bough second hand PC for less than that so I don't see what's so great about this?

    • by mikael (484)

      A mobile Internet connection would probably be more suited to someone is on low income - many already don't bother with telephone landlines because they are constantly moving around due to job market conditions. Having to install, test and disconnect an ADSL connection every few months because they are moving home would be too much hassle. Even with cable TV, it is something like $50 to install.

    • The specs are about the lowest I can still give away. I have a few P3 and Athlon systems in my attic that no one wants. They do come with TFT screens, which is quite nice (I also have a huge pile of CRTs no one wants, but spare TFTs are a bit rarer - people tend to hang onto them until they break).
    • by tepples (727027)

      Either sell Desktops with Broadband

      Are they also offering cheap flats in a geographic area served by broadband?

  • The issue here is that not everyone in the UK wants to get online.
  • I really hope this takes off, but I suspect that by the time Microsoft, the hardware manufactures and retailers have made their "representations" to the government it will die before it starts.
    I think these kind of initiatives will, unfortunately, remain with charities and keen individuals at a local level.

  • "The scheme, which aims to reach out to the 9.2 million adults that are not yet online, 4 million of whom are considered socially and economically disadvantaged."

    So, wait, geeks and nerds are now getting free computers in the UK!?

    • free computers

      Wow, that's a step beyond normal Slashdot behaviour. Most of us don't read the article. Some don't read the summary. But you didn't even read the headline!

  • In the same way some people are happy without TV some don't care about the internet. My mother is one - she leads a perfectly happy and fulfilling life never using google or youtube etc even though she could easily afford a computer. Why do people think this is abnormal and there has to be "something done about it"? If you don't have to work from home over the internet then having internet access is merely a nice-to-have rather than an essential. I wish some people in the IT industry would understand this.

    • Try reading TFA. They claim that being online can save an average of over £500 per year. This includes online shopping, paying utility bills online, and so on. A person on minimum wage takes home about £10K/year. Being online saves them about 5% of their income, which works out as a massive increase in their disposable income.

      If people don't want to do this, that's fine and no one is forcing them to.

      My mother is one - she leads a perfectly happy and fulfilling life never using google or youtube etc even though she could easily afford a computer

      Then she's not the target for this program and is completely irrelevant. It's aimed at peop

      • by gnasher719 (869701) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @07:45AM (#34926088)

        Try reading TFA. They claim that being online can save an average of over £500 per year. This includes online shopping, paying utility bills online, and so on. A person on minimum wage takes home about £10K/year. Being online saves them about 5% of their income, which works out as a massive increase in their disposable income. If people don't want to do this, that's fine and no one is forcing them to.

        You missed that this is about the UK. If you are on minimum wage, you won't qualify for any of these things that are for the "poor and needy". You have to be unemployed. In the UK, moving from unemployment to minimum wage means you lose your benefit income, which is tax free, and get an income from employment which can be less, and you have to pay tax on it. So you have less money, and then you will notice that your kids will have to pay for a school trip, while your neighbour who was clever enough not to get a job will have his kids going for free. You will also not get one of these free computers, while your unemployed neighbour will.

      • "The scheme, which aims to reach out to the 9.2 million adults that are not yet online, 4 million of whom are considered socially and economically disadvantaged"

        Which bit of that is hard for you to work out - ie that there are 5.2 million who arn't disadvantaged but still arn't online, most likely because they don't want to. Can you do simple maths?

  • MS know they can't let any real Linux contender in (like Ubuntu) so they will offer a cheap (maybe even free) XP copy for each of these. Then they will say that people should learn software that is out in the real world, i.e Windows and Office. Of course, most of us are smart enough to know that a) it's only cheap/free while there is competition, b) MS software changes to, so people shouldn't learn specific software, but software in a more general sense.
  • Fantastic! I bet the people around where I live will really enjoy the ~30kbit/s connection they'll get from their Three dongles on these new PCs. There are hundreds, if not thousands of villages where 3G coverage is nonexistant.
  • why mobile internet on a DESKTOP? and not DSL / cable?

    mobile internet has a lot less room then DSL / cable. Why have low cost DSL / cable for people in a area that can get that and mobile internet for people not in a cable or dsl area.

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