Ofcom says just 1.2% of households eligible for social broadband tariffs have taken out a contract and has urged the industry to do more to drive adoption and awareness.
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, of the 4.2 million households eligible, just 55,000 have taken out one of the offers, missing out on potential savings of around £144.
Given the increasing role of connectivity in society, education, and work, Ofcom is eager to ensure that no one is left behind. It says around 1.1 million households struggle to pay their broadband bill and the situation could be exacerbated by rising living costs and inflation over the next 12 months.
One of the major barriers is awareness. Only 84% of those eligible for the tariffs are aware of their existence, with the regulator saying providers do not promote their services sufficiently. Ofcom said social tariffs did not appear in advertising or on price comparison tools.
It says all operators should offer at least one social tariff, should actively promote their deals, provide clear information and make it easy for anyone eligible to sign up.
“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,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom's Network and Communications Group Director.
“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.”
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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.