Everyone deserves access to the internet. Not being able to get online in today’s world has huge consequences for the health, well-being and prosperity of individuals and families. Jobs and career opportunities can be quashed, and those in education can be at a serious disadvantage if they can’t get access to important information or research. 

Rightly or wrongly, society assumes you can get online, and common tasks are increasingly tricky if you can’t. But being able to keep in touch with friends and family, or to access information, shouldn’t be a luxury.

During Covid, being able to stay connected online was more important than ever and provided essential day-to-day life support. In some instances, the pandemic changed the way common tasks are carried out almost overnight. It’s worrying then, that last year Citizen’s Advice reported that 2.5 million people had fallen behind on their broadband bills, with 700,000 of these being in the red. 

Struggling with the cost of broadband can be a roadblock for those wanting to get online. But help is out there for customers who are having financial difficulties and providers are now offering discounted deals for those on benefits.

What are social tariffs?

Social Tariffs are discounted broadband contracts that are specifically set up for people receiving benefits. The product and level of service is the same as you’d get without a reduced rate. 

If you receive benefits, it’s likely you’ll be able to apply for a social tariff. These are currently available from the following Internet Service Providers:

  • BT
  • NOW
  • TalkTalk
  • Virgin Media
  • Vodafone
  • Hyperoptic
  • KCOM (for residents of Hull and its surrounding areas)

How can I apply for a social tariff?

Some providers have started getting in contact with people they believe to be receiving benefits, but you shouldn’t wait for this. You can phone your provider to discuss whether there’s a Social Tariff available, or you should find a dedicated section on their website where you can apply online.

I don’t receive benefits, can I get a cheaper broadband contract?

The cost-of-living crisis is leaving many of us stretched, even if we don’t qualify for benefits. Savings can be made if your broadband is out of its contract period. Around 6.95 million households are out of contract, but because they’ve not switched or renewed their broadband they’ve been moved to a higher tariff and paying over the odds. This is known as the “loyalty penalty”.

If you have a broadband contract, give this a thorough review now. See when your contract expires (or expired) and check if you can switch or renew. If you can’t yet, put a reminder in your calendar. This can help you to cut your costs and move to a more reasonably priced deal. Fast, fibre broadband is currently available from around £20 per month.

Will my provider cut me off if I’m unable to make payments?

It’s unlikely you’ll lose your internet connection immediately, but it’s very important you personally get in touch with your provider if you’re struggling. Your provider should be able to work with you to create a payment plan that works for both of you.

Other ways to use the internet

A backup strategy is worth investigating if you ever find yourself struggling to get online at home. Do some research to find out if there are any public Wi-Fi hotspots near you in advance. Your local library should be a reliable location for you to get online.

If you have a smartphone, it should be possible to tether or pair your phone to another device and use this as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Remember to check your mobile phone contract terms and be cautious of your data allowance.

Written by Emma Davenport. Emma Davenport has 20 years of experience writing about consumer tech for print and online and is a contributor for Broadband Genie.