Culture secretary asks UK broadband firms to raise awareness of social tariffs

Fibre broadband deals
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Culture secretary Nadine Dorries has written to the UK’s broadband providers urging them to do more to promote social broadband tariffs, weeks after Ofcom published proposals to the same effect.

In the letter, Dorries expressed her gratitude for the work already done by the telecoms industry in deploying superfast broadband and for keeping the country during the pandemic at a time when connectivity has never been more important to society.

However, she also said there was much to do to drive awareness of more affordable packages that are available to households on Universal Credit.

Broadband affordability

“Broadband has transformed people’s lives as we become a more digital society and I believe it’s vital we raise awareness of discount broadband offers for low-income households,” Dorries wrote.

The letter largely echoed Ofcom’s proposals and reiterated statistics published by the communications regulator last month. Ofcom’s research shows that around 1.1 million households (5% of the UK) struggle to afford their broadband service, a figure which rises to one in ten among the lowest income households.

At least six broadband providers – BT, Community Fibre, G.Network, Hyperoptic, KCOM and Virgin Media O2 – offer at least one discounted deal to anyone receiving universal credit. These tariffs cost between £10 and £20, and speeds range from 10Mbps to 67Mbps. However just 2% of those eligible for social tariffs have taken out a subscription.

Under Ofcom’s proposals, broadband providers would have to actively ofer and promote social tariffs, with only 84% of those eligible aware of their existence.  Ofcom also wants firms to work more closely with debt charities and to signpost free advice, while it adamant that service restrictions or disconnections in a bid to force payment should be avoided.

Since Ofcom’s initial research was published in February, BT has committed to ensuring its social tariff is clearly available in its retail stores as well as online.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.