Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has written to UK broadband providers urging them to do more to promote social broadband prices, weeks after Ofcom published proposals along the same lines.
In the letter, Dorries expressed gratitude for the work already done by the telecommunications industry in rolling out superfast broadband and for keeping the country going through the pandemic at a time when connectivity has never been more important to the society.
However, she also said there is a lot to be done to raise awareness of more affordable packages that are available to households on Universal Credit.
“Broadband has transformed people’s lives as we become a more digital society and I believe it is essential to educate low-income households about discounted broadband deals,” Dorries wrote.
The letter largely echoed Ofcom’s proposals and reiterated statistics released by the communications regulator last month. Ofcom research shows that around 1.1 million households (5% of the UK) are struggling to afford their broadband service, a figure that rises to one in ten among households on the lowest incomes. weaker.
At least six broadband providers – BT, Community Fibre, G.Network, Hyperoptic, KCOM and Virgin Media O2 – are offering at least one discounted deal to anyone with Universal Credit. These rates cost between £10 and £20, and speeds range from 10Mbps to 67Mbps. However, only 2% of those eligible for social tariffs have taken out a subscription.
According to Ofcom’s proposals, broadband providers should actively offer and promote social tariffs, with only 84% of eligible people aware of them. Ofcom also wants companies to work more closely with debt charities and report free advice, while saying adamantly that service restrictions or disconnections in an effort to force payment should be avoided.
Since Ofcom’s initial research was published in February, BT has been committed to ensuring its social rate is clearly available in its retail stores as well as online.