Broadband Firms Must Promote Social Tariffs

Broadband firms ‘must do more to promote social tariffs’. As the cost of living rises it is “vital” that broadband firms do more to promote discounted broadband for low-income households, the government says. In a letter to broadband suppliers, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries noted only 1-2% of Universal Credit claimants take up social tariffs.

Ofcom has previously said that 84% of benefit recipients were unaware of social tariff packages. It said it had seen “limited evidence” of those tariffs being promoted.

The Good Things Foundation, which campaigns on behalf of the digitally excluded, described data poverty as an issue that has “grown significantly over the past two years during the pandemic”.

It warned increases to the cost of living “will only put further pressure on those on the lowest incomes, who are already having to make stark choices between having the internet connection they need and heating their house or feeding their family”.

In her letter to broadband firms, Nadine Dorries highlighted the increasing prevalence of “a more digital society” and said it was “vital” to raise awareness of discount broadband offers “for low-income households”.

Of the five million households eligible for cheaper broadband, only around 55,000 households are currently taking advantage of the offers available, the culture secretary noted, in her letter.

Ms Dorries invited the telecoms companies to respond “on how we go further”.

Many of those struggling to pay their bills turn to Citizen’s Advice for help.

Matthew Upton, the charity’s director of policy, told the BBC: “We’re hearing shocking stories of people on the lowest incomes struggling to get by and yet they’re missing out on affordable broadband deals.

“It’s good to see the government applying more pressure on firms to do more to help people move onto social tariffs, but if it still doesn’t work they must consider other options.”

Other organisations welcome efforts to raise awareness of social tariffs, but say it won’t fix the underlying problem of rising costs and insufficient income.

Previously Ofcom found that, even on a social tariff, broadband takes up nearly 5% of the disposable income of an unemployed person claiming Universal Credit.

Rebecca McDonald, Senior Economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, told the BBC promoting social tariffs “is no substitute for meaningful action to protect peoples’ incomes, as we face the biggest squeeze on living standards in generations”. “At a bare minimum, the government must increase benefits in line with inflation as soon as possible, to protect those most at risk of hardship.”

Different deals are available from different broadband providers. They are usually available to customers who receive certain government benefits – such as universal credit, pension credit, income support, jobseekers’ allowance or employment and support allowance.

Regulator Ofcom has a list of providers, how much their tariffs cost, their broadband speeds and who is eligible – you can have a look here. Ofcom also says that as well as these tariffs, other support might be available to customers who might not be able to get online because they struggle to afford internet services.

It says if you’re struggling to pay your mobile phone or broadband bill, you should speak to your provider as soon as possible to see how they can help.

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