Millions are still missing out on affordable broadband, but Virgin Media has a plan to fix the issue

a virgin media engineer is pictured fitting broadband cables for its fibre broadband and landline service

Virgin Media is one of a small handful of broadband providers that offer social tariffs to reduce monthly costs for the lowest-income households in the UK

Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Published: 14/12/2023

- 04:45

Just 5% of eligible households are taking advantage of cut-price social tariff broadband

  • Virgin Media is one of six broadband providers that offer 'social tariffs'
  • These offer superfast downloads at a more affordable price, starting from £12
  • Millions of eligible customers are still missing out on these broadband packages
  • In an industry first, Virgin Media is reaching out to its eligible customers

Millions of Virgin Media customers from low-income households are missing out on affordable broadband bills that could slash their outgoings each month. In a bid to increase uptake of its discounted plans, Virgin Media has pledged to proactively reach out to customers.

The awareness campaign, which includes listing information about Virgin Media’s most affordable broadband, landline and TV bundles on monthly bills for December, is a first for the industry.

A report from industry regulator Ofcom published earlier this year found that a meagre 5% of all eligible households had signed up to a so-called “social tariffs”.

These are discounted packages aimed at low-income households, including those receive benefits, with the aim of making broadband, landline, and TV services more accessible – no matter people’s financial situation. Prices start from just £12 per month.

As well as listing social tariffs in the paperwork for December’s monthly bills, Virgin Media is working with a number of local authority partners, including Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Slough Borough Council, Bradford Council and Telford & Wrekin Council, to boost the availability of cost-of-living support through their community channels and networks.

Lastly, Virgin Media is calling on the UK Government to cut VAT on social tariffs from 20% to no more than 5%, in line with other essential items.

Virgin Media O2 Chief Operations Officer, Rob Orr said: “Having pioneered one of the first broadband social tariffs back in 2020, we know the difference that affordable connectivity can make to people’s lives and we’ve continued to step up to provide support.

“To go further once again, we’re boosting our awareness-raising efforts to spread the word about the support measures we’ve put in place.

“Whether that’s through information on customers’ monthly bills or our collaboration with local authorities across the UK, millions more people will be regularly reminded about our Essential Broadband packages which offer cut-price broadband and entertainment for those facing financial difficulty.

“While we have regularly increased the support on offer, we won’t solve digital exclusion alone, which is why we’re reiterating our call on the Government to update its nine-year-old digital inclusion strategy and cut VAT on social tariffs to further help those who need it.”

In total, six broadband providers – BT, Community Fibre, G.Network, Hyperoptic, KCOM and Virgin Media O2 – offer at least one social tariff package. These bundles do not sacrifice speed for a lower monthly price, with most offering average download speeds between 10- to 70Mbps.

The latter is the average household broadband speed in the UK, as measured by Ofcom earlier this year. So customers will still be able to stream TV shows and films, make calls on services like FaceTime and WhatsApp, upload data to the cloud, and download software updates.

Pricesvary between around £12 to £20 each month.

Ofcom data shows that 1.1 million households (roughly 5% of all homes nationwide) struggle to pay for their home broadband plans. When it comes to those with the lowest household income, that rises to one in 10.

Additional Reporting By Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent

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