An estimated 2.3 million people had fallen behind on their broadband bill towards the end of 2020, says Citizens Advice.
More than one in six consumers are finding it hard to afford their broadband during the current lockdown, new research has found.
Earlier research by Citizens Advice found that during the first lockdown certain groups were struggling to pay their broadband bill.
Broadband customers who received benefits such as Universal Credit were almost twice as likely to struggle to pay their bill as other customers. The charity found that towards the end of 2020, around 2.3 million people had fallen behind on their broadband bill.
Losing out on the best deals
Citizen's Advice cites the case of Maxine, who lives alone and has been claiming Universal Credit since her work in the hospitality industry dried up in the first lockdown.
She can’t afford broadband, so when she has used up her mobile phone data, allowance, she is unable to video-call her elderly parents or to see many of her grandchildren.
Maxine feels that she was being penalised for not having access to the internet: “Most things nowadays are online: food shopping when I was isolating, applications, checking my Universal Credit account, getting the best deal for gas and so forth,” she said.
“So when you don't have access to the internet, you lose out as they put all the best deals and information online.”
Citizens Advice is now calling on the government and Ofcom to fast-track these plans by making it compulsory for all providers to offer affordable tariffs to people on low-income benefits. It says that only three of the largest 13 broadband providers currently offer lower tariffs.
Alistair Cromwell, acting chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The pandemic has cemented the fact that broadband is an essential utility. It is not a luxury for those who can afford it. Without broadband we struggle to teach our children, order food and medicines, work or search for a job.
“While the government has provided free laptops and mobile data to help children study at home, these are ultimately just a sticking plaster. To tackle the digital divide, it must take urgent action to ensure everyone can afford their broadband, no matter which provider they are with.”
What can you do if you can’t afford your broadband?
- Contact your provider to see whether they will offer a lower tariff if you are on a low income.
- Check whether you can switch to another provider offering a cheaper deal.
- Check if you are eligible for free data boosts, such as those offered as part of the government’s Get Help With Technology scheme to help those with children who cannot afford to get online.
- Phone up for consumer advice from the Citizens Advice on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 for Welsh language speakers.
See if you can save money on your household bills.
Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.