Nadine Dorries has written to key internet providers urging them to raise awareness of discounted broadband offers for those on universal credit and benefits.
She urged firms included BT and Virgin Media to publicise schemes because they have ‘low uptake’, with 84 per cent of those on benefits reportedly unaware they exist.
Discounted social tariff packages are open to around four million households who have government support, but only 55,000 homes have so far accessed them, meaning millions miss out on lower rates.
Ofcom has warned broadband firms are “failing either to promote their social tariff or to offer one at all” as it warned there is “limited evidence” companies promote the initiative.
Dorries, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told the firms “broadband has transformed people’s lives as we become a more digital society” and it is “vital we raise awareness of discount broadband offers for low-income households”.
According to the Telegraph, at least six providers offered a minimum of one package priced between £10 and £20 a month in February.
Virgin Media O2 told City A.M, it offers a plan with broadband speed of 15Mbps and a fixed price of £15 per month, which has no fixed-term contract length and or price changes while Universal Credit payments are being received.
A spokesperson said it was “one of the first providers in the UK to launch an affordable broadband plan” and it is |committed to ensuring there is awareness” about it.
“We’re currently speaking to Government on these plans and on ways to make sign-up easier and quicker, moving from a manual to an automated process with regards to identifying individuals or families receiving universal credit.”
An Ofcom spokesperson said the tariffs can “make all the difference for people suffering financial hardship, and too many broadband firms are failing either to promote their social tariff or to offer one at all.”
The regulator said it had been “been calling on all providers to support struggling households by introducing these deals. We also want to see all companies promote them more widely, and make sure it’s swift and simple for customers to sign up.”
A BT Group spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that other major operators have not responded to Ofcom and the Government’s calls to introduce a social tariff for broadband so far. We believe it is now urgent that they do so, and if they do not, Government should empower Ofcom to require this.”