Over four million people on low incomes are paying too much for their broadband connection. Almost all major broadband providers offer
what are called “social tariffs” to people on means-tested benefits such as Pension Credit and Universal Credit. Some may include people on benefits for disabled people like Attendance Allowance and Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Social tariffs can halve the cost of broadband, slashing £200 a year off the standard price. But only about one in 20 eligible customers claims the cheaper rates. Broadband regulator Ofgem is calling on providers to make customers aware of their social tariffs after its research found that more than half the people eligible simply did not know they existed.
Social tariffs aren’t just cheaper; they’re also not subject to the eye-watering annual price rises that saw most providers whack up prices by between ten and 17 per cent last month.
Broadband gives you access to the internet at home and you do not pay for the time you are connected. There can be extra charges if you download masses of data, but a standard package is more than adequate for normal everyday use. Nowadays banking, shopping, claiming benefits, paying tax and more is all done most easily online. Fast internet access is rapidly becoming as important as the telephone was a couple of generations ago. Without it you’re disenfranchised – campaigners call it digital exclusion.
If you already have broadband ask your provider about a social tariff and how to switch to one. There should be no charge to do that, and if you want to leave it later to switch to another provider there should be no charge for that, either. If you do not have broadband because you think you cannot afford it, then ask the firm you pay for your phone or mobile about social tariffs for broadband. Or contact one of the big providers: BT, Sky, Virgin or Vodafone.
Even with a social tariff, broadband will cost you £15 or £20 a month. But it should make your financial life a great deal easier and could save you money. For more information, search which.co.uk for “broadband social tariffs”.
QUESTIONS? Send any questions to Paul.Lewis@radiotimes.com. Paul cannot answer you personally, but will reflect them in his column.