One million lose broadband access as cost-of-living crisis bites

By Patrick Barnham

Citizens Advice revealed a million people were forced to disconnect their broadband because they couldn’t afford it.

  • People on Universal Credit were more than six times as likely to have disconnected compared to people not claiming Universal Credit.
  • People on Universal Credit would have been eligible for discounted broadband social tariffs, however there are still big gaps around awareness and access.
  • Charity warns increasingly essential service is becoming out of reach for many.

As many as one million people cut off their broadband in the last year as the cost-of-living crisis left them unable to afford internet access, according to new research from Citizens Advice.

People receiving Universal Credit were badly affected. The research found them to be six times more likely to have stopped spending on broadband in the last 12 months amidst rising bills, compared to non-claimants. 

The charity fears this problem could get worse. Where people claiming Universal Credit are still paying for broadband, they are more than four times more likely to be behind on broadband bills than those who aren’t. 

Citizens Advice says these are worrying signs that a service that is increasingly essential for day-to-day life is becoming out of reach for people.

People on Universal Credit are among customers who should be eligible for discounted social tariffs to help them stay connected. However, as uptake of these tariffs is currently just 5%, the charity claims these important discounts aren’t reaching those who need it.

The latest figures from Ofcom show 95% of the 4.3 million eligible households are missing out on saving £200 on broadband costs each year. That is £824 million of support going unclaimed. 

Rob’s Story – ‘Not having the internet affects me enormously; from not being able to apply for jobs,to my social life and my mental health, because I feel very isolated.’

Rob, is 63 years old and lives in shared accommodation. Over the past 13 years, he’s only had internet access for the last 10 months, after he received a prepaid service from his local council.  This is due to run out in July and will not be extended.

“I haven’t had access to the internet in the past mainly because I am unable to afford the cost of broadband,” Rob said.

“It’s more difficult to enjoy any aspect of life since the cost-of-living crisis and certainly the internet is something that’s out of my reach.” 

Rob said he hadn’t heard of social tariffs: “I didn’t even know it was a thing, but I’ll look into it. I might just be able to afford it if it’s discounted enough.”

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“People are being priced out of internet access at a worrying rate. Social tariffs should be the industry’s safety net, but firms’ current approach to providing and promoting them clearly isn’t working. The people losing out as a result are the most likely to disconnect.

“The internet is now an essential part of our lives – vital to managing bills, accessing benefits and staying in touch with loved ones.

“As providers continue to drag their feet in making social tariffs a success, it’s clear that Ofcom needs to hold firms’ feet to the fire.”

Please visit the Citizens Advice website for information on how to check if you’re eligible for broadband social tariffs.

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