Ofcom has called on all broadband companies to better support low income households, suggesting the use of “social tariffs” across the board.
These special discounted broadband packages are available to an estimated 4.2 million households in receipt of Universal Credit.
However, only 55,000 homes have taken advantage of these discounted rates so far – just 1.2 per cent of those eligible, meaning that millions of recipients are missing out on an average annual broadband saving of £144 each.
Currently six broadband providers – BT, Community Fibre, G.Network, Hyperoptic, KCOM and Virgin Media O2 – offer at least one of these specially discounted deals.
A BT spokesperson told City A.M.:“Home Essentials makes access to fast, reliable broadband more affordable for those who need it the most, including the estimated 4.6 million households who receive universal credit and is now available on the high street.”
Vodafone also offers two broadband packages that are within Ofcom’s £10-£20 ‘social tariff’ threshold.
The media watchdog has urged all other companies to impose some kind of social tariff.
According to its report on affordability, around 1.1 million households (five per cent) of households are struggling to afford their home broadband service.
This hits one in ten among the lowest-income households, and is likely to worsen with retail price increases and a wider squeeze on household finances.
Lindsey Fussell, Networks and Communications Group Director at Ofcom, said: “People rely on their broadband for staying in touch, working and learning from home. But for those who are really struggling with rising bills, every penny counts.”
“Special discounts can make all the difference, and too many broadband firms are failing either to promote their social tariff or to offer one at all. We expect companies to step up support for those on low incomes, and we’ll be watching their response.”
The announcement could urge the likes of EE, Sky, Plusnet and TalkTalk, who currently do not offer “social tariffs”, to introduce relevant policies.