UK Government asks ISPs to promote social tariffs amid cost of living crisis

UK Government asks ISPs to promote social tariffs amid cost of living crisis
Ryan is a senior editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter: @Gadget_Ry

The UK Government is asking the country’s ISPs to promote social tariffs amid the cost of living crisis.

Low-cost social tariffs are offered to households receiving certain benefits to help close the “digital divide” and ensure that everyone has access to the work and social opportunities that connectivity brings.

However, data from British telecoms regulator Ofcom suggests that under two percent of eligible people are taking up social tariffs—meaning they’re either paying more than needed or foregoing a broadband connection altogether.

In a letter – sent to ISPs including BT, Virgin Media O2, Hyperoptics, and others – UK Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries wrote:

“The government is determined to work with businesses to keep everyday costs down for families across the country. 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.

Support is available for 99 per cent of the country, yet Ofcom’s recent analysis shows that only 1 to 2 per cent of households on Universal Credit eligible for social tariff products have taken them up.

This means that of the almost 5,000,000 households who could be benefiting from cheaper broadband, only around 55,000 currently are. Less than a quarter of those eligible families were aware the deals were available.

It is more important than ever that we support families and ease pressures on household finances while also closing the digital divide. I am grateful for the work you have done on this so far and look forward to your response on how we go further.”

UK inflation is rising at its fastest rate for 30 years as fuel, energy, food, and other costs increase. The Bank of England expects inflation to reach around eight percent over spring and “it could go even higher later this year”.

Since last year, there has been a threefold increase in telcos voluntarily offering social tariffs as people’s finances get ever more squeezed. That’s great to see, but the lacklustre uptake shows a lack of awareness around their availability.

The government’s letter may not achieve much but hopefully will prompt some ISPs to do the right thing and increase the marketing of their social tariffs to households that could be struggling during these difficult times.

(Photo by Emil Kalibradov on Unsplash)

Related: Telecoms union pressures BT for inflation-countering pay rises

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