One million in UK lose broadband access as cost-of-living crisis bites


  • A million people disconnected their broadband in the last year because they couldn’t afford it.

  • People on Universal Credit were more than six times as likely to have disconnected compared to people not claiming Universal Credit.

  • People on Universal Credit would have been eligible for discounted broadband social tariffs, but there are still big gaps around awareness and access.

  • Charity warns increasingly essential service is becoming out of reach for many.

As many as one million people cut off their broadband in the last year as the cost-of-living crisis left them unable to afford internet access, according to new research from the charity Citizens Advice.

People receiving Universal Credit were badly affected. The research found them to be six times more likely to have stopped spending on broadband in the last 12 months amidst rising bills, compared to non-claimants. 

The charity fears this problem could get worse. Where people claiming Universal Credit are still paying for broadband, they are more than four times more likely to be behind on broadband bills than those who aren’t. 

Citizens Advice says these are worrying signs that a service that is increasingly essential for day-to-day life is becoming out of reach for people.

People on Universal Credit are among customers who should be eligible for discounted social tariffs to help them stay connected. However, as uptake of these tariffs is currently just 5%, the charity claims these important discounts aren’t reaching those who need it.

The latest figures from Ofcom show 95% of the 4.3 million eligible households are missing out on saving £200 on broadband costs each year. That is £824 million of support going unclaimed. 

Alex Tofts, broadband expert at Broadband Genie, comments: 

“Soaring mid-contract price rises in the current climate have been too much for bill-payers to absorb. Broadband is an essential service and the market has been slow to respond to the challenges customers are facing.

“These cancellations speak not only to the recent double-digit bill increases, but also to the lack of awareness about social tariffs among many customers who need them the most.

“Providers must shoulder most of the blame for this. While some like TalkTalk are still not offering their customers these discounted deals, many that do have kept them hidden well away from their home pages.  

Table: Are broadband social tariffs being hidden away?

Broadband Provider
Social tariff
Promoted on homepage
BT Home Essentials
Virgin Media
Virgin Media Essential Broadband/+
Sky Broadband Basics
No social tariff
Vodafone Essentials
Offers BT Home Essentials
No social tariff
NowBroadband Basics
Utility Warehouse
No social tariff
Three Broadband
No social tariff
Shell Energy Broadband
No social tariff
KCOM full fibre flex

Source: Broadband Genie

“The introduction of the new Smart Data Council, designed to help nudge consumers onto the best value deals, suggests the ship is slowly being turned around but much more needs to be done.

“Households who are not eligible for a social tariff but struggling with their broadband costs should contact their provider as soon as possible. If they are out of contract they will also be able to save money by switching to another supplier.”

Chris Price
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