Broadband bills could be cut for millions of low-income households under Government plans to encourage ‘social tariffs’.
There are currently nine internet service providers that offer social tariffs, but the Government says that only 1.2 per cent of eligible people are taking advantage of these deals. Currently available packages can be viewed here.
However a new service, which will go live next week and be run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which will allow internet service providers to verify – with customers’ permission – whether they are in receipt of a relevant benefit and therefore eligible for extra financial support.
The scheme is already supported by Virgin Media O2 who, following discussions with Government, has announced today that they will use the system to verify eligible customers signing up to their Essential Broadband tariff. The company will also waive early termination fees for those moving from existing tariffs.
Customers on social tariffs could in some cases save over a hundred pounds a year. The new system will also simplify the process by removing the need for customers to prove their entitlement to broadband providers as regularly as every month. Social tariffs are available to eligible customers in 99 per cent of the country following Government-led negotiations with broadband companies.
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones welcomed the scheme saying: “Whether it is for leisure, work, healthcare, social security or education fast, reliable internet is an essential part of our everyday lives. I am pleased that the Government and providers are coming together to cut the cost for those most in need who are often those who rely on the internet the most for job applications, benefits and education.
“The Government has committed to continue working with industry to scale up and promote existing social tariffs, as well as encourage all providers to offer a discounted tariff. I hope that organisations that work with those most in need in our area will also promote this great scheme.”
In Harrogate and Knaresborough although unemployment and benefits claims are low there are still 1200 people currently claiming unemployment benefits and may be eligible alongside a number claiming benefits while in work such as Universal Credit.