A survey by Citizens Advice has found that more than one in six people are struggling to afford their broadband during the third lockdown and that poorer people are locked out altogether.
Certain Groups Worst Hit
Citizens Advice, which also conducted a similar survey during the first lockdown, found that the groups struggling most with their broadband bill were people with children, disabled people, people from Black, Asian or ethnic minority backgrounds, those who were shielding, and young people. Also, customers in receipt of low-income benefits e.g., Universal Credit were found to be almost twice as likely to struggle to pay their bill as other customers. By the end of 2020, Citizens Advice found that an estimated 2.3 million people had fallen behind on their broadband bill.
Takes Much Greater Proportion of Low-Income Budget
In December 2020, Ofcom found that if households were paying the average £37 a month for landline and broadband, this would take around four times the proportion of a low-income household’s budget, compared to an average household.
Only 3 of 13 Affordable
The Citizens Advice survey found that sadly, only three of the largest 13 broadband companies offer affordable tariffs to people on low-income benefits. This has led Citizens Advice to call on the government and Ofcom to fast-track plans that will make it compulsory for all providers to offer affordable tariffs to people on low-income benefits. In December 2020, the European Electronic Communications Code, which came into UK law, should allow Ofcom and the government to do just that.
Pandemic Highlighted The Importance of Broadband
The pandemic lockdowns have highlighted just how important broadband is and that it is now more of an essential utility for all. For everything from working online (remotely) and communications with relatives to online shopping and job applications or job interviews, broadband is now essential to allow people to participate fully in society.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
With the European Electronic Communications Code now in UK law and with Ofcom appearing to be of the opinion that affordable broadband is “vital”, it is likely that big broadband providers will now face pressure to ensure that more of them provide affordable tariffs. As broadband is now considered an essential utility, it is important that people are not excluded from it, so that aspects of today’s society and that people and their families’ opportunities and life chances aren’t damaged or limited simply because their broadband services are too expensive. Businesses deal with all sections of society e.g., customers, recruitment and more, so it is in the economy’s best interest that as many people as possible at least have access to broadband.