The government has called on broadband providers to do more to promote their social tariffs, following the news that very few of these packages have been taken up – mostly because people are unaware they exist.
Around five million households around the UK are thought to be eligible for cheaper broadband deals, offered to those in receipt of certain benefits. However, only 55,000 have taken up such deals – around 1.5%. Data from Ofcom suggests the poor take-up is simply because people have not been told about these packages in the first place.
The regulator recently published figures claiming 84% of benefit recipients were unaware of the social tariffs available to them – which can be attributed to it having seen “little evidence” of them being promoted by the broadband companies.
Now, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has written to the UK’s largest providers, calling on them to raise awareness of their social deals, as doing so would be “vital” to the government’s aims of creating “a more digital society”.
The ongoing cost of living crisis has put this issue into stark contrast, with many households facing tough financial decisions, yet all the while spending out more on broadband than they may need to.
Director of Policy at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Matthew Upton, told BBC News: “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.”
For their part, some broadband providers have called on the government to do more themselves – by making it easier for the companies to identify those in receipt of Universal Credit, or helping make the sign-up process quicker and easier.
Anyone unsure about whether they qualify for these packages is urged to check the Ofcom website, which has a full list of providers and their social tariffs, as well as the total price, services you get for the money, and eligibility criteria. It also has help and advice for anyone who cannot get online at all because of the associated costs.