By Karen Peattie

A YOUNG Edinburgh entrepreneur has launched the UK’s first social enterprise internet service provider as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic which has led to many people having no or minimal access to the internet.

Rob Flannigan set up not-for-profit EnableNet to help tackle “unequal access to the internet” and dispel the myth that internet access is a “luxury”. He said: “Internet access is not a luxury, it’s a utility – people need it to access benefits, to look for jobs, to study, work, and stay connected.

“Covid has shown that people need the internet more than ever but there are many households across the UK who struggle to afford it. This inequality was exacerbated when lockdown began and internet usage for many became a lifeline in staying connected to family, friends and work.”

EnableNet offers competitive internet speeds, shorter six-month minimum term contracts and, says Mr Flannigan, is Scotland’s first SoGEA (single order generic ethernet access) provider. SoGEA allows for fast, secure and stable internet packages without the need of a landline.

“Access to stable, unlimited broadband really does increase social mobility, job prospects, and knowledge sharing,” he added. “It enables individuals to keep up with current affairs and helps people to get access to information and support that they wouldn’t normally have.”

Mr Flannigan, who aims for EnableNet to become the number one provider for ethically minded individuals and businesses, previously founded Enable Gaming, an accessible gaming events social enterprise. Having received funding to run events from Firstport, Scotland’s agency for start-up social entrepreneurs and social enterprise, he was forced to press pause on his plans when Covid restrictions were introduced.

“With the Scottish Government pushing for digital inclusion and knowing that there would be people struggling to staying connected during the pandemic, I decided to launch EnableNet,” he said. “I grew up in a disadvantaged area of the west of Scotland and now I’m in a position to make a difference I want to create opportunities for others.”

For every 10 internet packages sold, EnableNet offers a free 12-month package to a household that would would be unable to afford it.