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Gloucestershire Business News

Million people fall into broadband poverty

A million people pulled the plug on their broadband in the last year because they couldn't afford it.

And the shocking statistic comes amid a warning that Ofcom is failing to ensure providers step in with an affordable service that's "essential for day-to-day life".

According to a major survey across UK households released today from Citizens Advice (CA), families on Universal Credit were more than six times as likely to have disconnected compared to people not claiming the benefit.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of CA, warned: "People are being priced out of internet access at a worrying rate. Social tariffs should be the industry's safety net, but firms' current approach to providing and promoting them clearly isn't working.

"As providers continue to drag their feet in making social tariffs a success, it's clear that Ofcom needs to hold firms' feet to the fire."

The people losing out as a result are the most likely to disconnect, she added.

"The internet is now an essential part of our lives – vital to managing bills, accessing benefits and staying in touch with loved ones."

People on Universal Credit would are eligible for discounted broadband social tariffs, however there are still big gaps around awareness and access: "People on Universal Credit are among customers who should be eligible for discounted social tariffs to help them stay connected".

CA found uptake of these tariffs currently is just 5% and the charity claims these important discounts aren't reaching those who need it.

Latest figures from Ofcom, says CA, indicate 95% of the 4.3 million eligible households are missing out on saving £200 on broadband costs each year – translating into £824 million of support that is going unclaimed.

Case studies from CA include 63-year-old Rob, who lives in shared accommodation: "Not having the internet affects me enormously; from not being able to apply for jobs to my social life and my mental health, because I feel very isolated."

Rob told CA he hadn't heard of social tariffs: "I didn't even know it was a thing, but I'll look into it. I might just be able to afford it if it's discounted enough."

The government has meanwhile said it encourages social tariff take-up, which is available for 99% of the UK by working with Ofcom and the industry to introduce a range of products to the market.

BT, Sky and Virgin Media are on board with the scheme: Sky's offer is £20 a month, BT's £15 and Virgin Media's is £12.50.

As well as being in receipt of Universal Credit, Ofcom says recipients of Pension Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker's Allowance and Income Support should also check for eligibility to the cut-price schemes.

The CA website also offers information on how to check if you're eligible for broadband social tariffs.

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