One tenth of population can’t afford to be connected
One tenth of lower income homes in the UK can’t afford broadband, according to regulator Ofcom. According to its research 1.1 million UK households struggle to afford phone and broadband bills..
In response it has issued a statement that it wants to ‘update its guidance’ to firms to include not restricting services to those who need them most.
Ofcom’s network and communications group director, Lindsey Fussell, issued a statement that “Phone and broadband are vital to our lives.” However, Ofcom has previously promised UK telcos that it won’t impose price controls in fibre for 9 years. According to a BBC report, the UK’s broadband and phone companies have announced price increases significantly above the rate of inflation.
Broadband providers offer discounted “social tariffs” for people on benefits but, according to the BBC Ofcom has previously said that it has seen “limited evidence” that they are actively promoted to eligible customers. Deals do not generally feature in broadband advertising or price comparison website searches, it said.
Ofcom found that only 55,000 out of 4.2 million homes in receipt of universal credit are using discounted rates, and 84 per cent of people on benefits were unaware of the social tariff packages.
Now Ofcom has announced it is ‘consulting on proposals’ for better help for those struggling to pay that will be included in updated guidance for companies.
“Many households’ budgets are being seriously squeezed. So it’s crucial that people who are struggling to afford their bills get the support they need,” said Ofcom’s group director Fussell.
The regulator’s ‘key proposal’ is to emphasise the support available to customers, particularly special discounted packages for financially vulnerable customers. Though its research suggests that “millions of families could save an average of £144 each year on their broadband bill” few people are aware of this.
However, Till Sommer, head of policy at the Internet Service Providers Association, told the BBC that: “The market as a whole still offers low and very competitive prices, and consumers who are struggling to pay their bills have access to a range of social tariffs from a variety of providers.”