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Broadband for low-income families and social tariffs

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Broadband is an essential part of everyday life. If you’re struggling to afford it, there’s help you can get. Read on to find out which providers offer broadband social tariffs, and how to apply.

What are social broadband tariffs?

Some providers offer special broadband deals called 'social tariffs.' These are discounted low-cost broadband plans for people on certain benefits.

As well as being much more affordable, they’re usually on shorter-term contracts. Plus, there aren’t any early exit fees – so you’re not tied to your contract if your circumstances change, and you can leave without paying a penalty.

Who is eligible for a social tariff?

Requirements per provider differ, but if you are on a low income and receive:

  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-related Job Seekers Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Care Leavers support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

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Can I get free broadband?

The only opportunity to get free broadband is via TalkTalk’s scheme with Jobcentre Plus. If you qualify, you get six months’ worth of free broadband from TalkTalk – more on that below.

Otherwise, providers don’t currently offer free broadband. Nevertheless, plenty of broadband companies offer sweeteners, like vouchers and reward cards, with their deals.

If you don’t qualify for a broadband social tariff, you could consider shopping around and taking advantage of the tempting incentives reserved for new customers. Visit our page on free gifts for more information.

Do I have to prove my eligibility?

Yes – but it’s usually easy and quick to do so. You’ll typically just need to enter your details on the provider’s website when applying for a broadband social tariff.

They’ll run a quick eligibility check. Once they’re confirmed your details, they’ll arrange with you to get your broadband set up.

What if I'm not eligible?

If you don’t qualify for a broadband social tariff, you can still shop around for a cheap broadband deal. Providers such as Plusnet, TalkTalk, NOW Broadband and EE all offer simpler, more affordable packages.

Can I get low-cost broadband if I'm receiving Universal Credit?

Absolutely – the vast majority of broadband social tariff schemes are open to those receiving Universal Credit.

Broadband social tariffs available in the UK

Quite a few providers offer broadband social tariffs. You can visit Ofcom's page on social tariffs to get a full, up-to-date list of the social tariffs that are available.

Here’s the lowdown on what you can get with each provider (prices correct at the time of writing):

BT

BT’s low-income scheme is called BT Home Essentials, and it gets you a superfast fibre broadband and home phone package on a 12-month contract.

For £15 a month, you get fibre broadband with speeds of 36Mbps, as well as a landline service with 700 minutes to UK landlines and mobiles. Usually, this deal (called BT Fibre Essential) costs around £28 per month – so it’s a significant discount.

For £20 a month, you can get a faster package with speeds of 67Mbps and unlimited UK calls, or even opt for a home phone-only deal for £10.

Both new and existing BT customers can apply. To qualify, you’ll need to be receiving one of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit)
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support

Visit BT’s page on its Home Essentials broadband plan for more info.

Virgin Media

Virgin Media has low-cost fibre broadband packages aimed at people receiving Universal Credit.

You have two options:

  • Essential broadband – speeds of 15Mbps, costing £12.50 per month
  • Essential broadband plus – speeds of 54Mbps, costing £20 per month

With the Essential broadband plus plan, you also have the option to add ‘Stream from Virgin Media’ – Virgin Media’s own TV streaming service – to your deal. You get a Stream box, which you plug into your TV to access all your subscriptions and apps.

You don’t have to pay an extra monthly fee (unless you want to add a paid subscription, such as Netflix or Disney+), just a one-off £20 Stream set-up fee.

When applying for Essential broadband, you’ll need to provide a screenshot of your online Universal Credit Payments page as proof of your eligibility.

For more on Virgin Media’s social tariff and how to apply, visit Virgin Media’s webpage.

Hyperoptic

For extremely fast broadband at affordable prices, you can also consider Hyperoptic's Fair Fibre Plan if it’s available in your postcode.

You can opt for its fast broadband package, which gets you speeds of 50Mbps for £15 a month. Or, for £20 a month, you can get superfast speeds of 150Mbps. For an extra £3 a month, you can bundle your broadband with a home phone plan that comes with free evening and weekend UK landline calls.

What’s more, you get free installation and activation, and your plan works on a monthly rolling basis – meaning you can cancel anytime, with no exit fees.

It’s open to both new and existing customers, as long as they’re receiving one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-related Job Seekers Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Care Leavers support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

For more information, head to Hyperoptic’s Fair Fibre Plan page.

TalkTalk

TalkTalk is the only provider offering free broadband at the moment. This scheme is available across England, Scotland and Wales, with talks of rolling it out in Northern Ireland in the future.

Under a partnership with the government and Jobcentre Plus, eligible people will receive six months of TalkTalk’s Fibre 35 package with average speeds of 38Mbps (though you won’t get any extras, like a landline).

There’s no contract, and you’re not obliged to sign up to a regular TalkTalk deal once the six months are up. Even if you find a job within those six months, you can continue using the scheme until it ends.

Applying for this scheme is different from other providers, however. If you’re out of work, you’ll need to ask your Jobcentre Plus work coach if you can apply – it’s up to them to determine whether you’re eligible or not.

If you qualify, you’ll be given a referral code to give to TalkTalk. Give them a call (your Jobcentre Plus should give you a dedicated TalkTalk helpline), and they’ll help you set up your free broadband.

TalkTalk’s website has more information on this scheme.

Sky

Sky has a Sky Broadband Basics plan that’s reserved for existing Sky broadband customers. To qualify, the Sky account holder needs to be claiming one of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-based Employment Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support

You’ll also need to be the one named on the monthly statement for the benefit – so, another member of the household can’t qualify for you.

If you do qualify, you’ll be able to get Sky Broadband Superfast 35, with average speeds of 36Mbps, and a Sky Pay As You Talk landline plan – all for £20 per month on an 18-month contract.

If you want to leave before your contract is up, you won’t need to pay any early exit fees. Once the 18 months is up, the price will go back to the standard rate.

You can also add a Sky Mobile plan to your Sky Broadband Basics package. This gets you a free 12-month 3GB data plan with Sky Mobile, which comes with unlimited UK calls and texts and data rollover.

Visit Sky’s page on social tariffs for more.

NOW

NOW is part of Sky, so there are some similarities between the two providers’ social tariffs. For example, NOW’s scheme is called NOW Broadband Basics, and it has the same eligibility criteria.

It gets you the NOW Fab Fibre Membership, with speeds of 36Mbps, as well as a landline with its ‘Pay as you Use’ calls plan (so you’ll only need to pay for any calls you make). Given that the Fab Fibre Membership normally costs £32 a month, this is a big discount.

Instead of a fixed-term contract, however, NOW’s scheme is available on a monthly rolling contract. So, if you want to cancel, you’ll just need to give 31 days’ notice – and you won’t need to pay any early exit fees.

For more information, NOW has a page on its Broadband Basics plan.

Vodafone

Vodafone is one of the latest providers to offer a broadband social tariff, and it’s also one of the cheapest.

Its Vodafone Essentials plan costs £12 a month, and you get fibre broadband with speeds of up to 38Mbps. There aren’t any set-up fees, nor any early termination fees.

It’s available on a 12-month contract. Once the minimum term is up, you’ll need to pay £22 per month, as long as you continue to meet the eligibility criteria. However, you're free to leave or switch after your contract ends.

Both new and existing customers can apply – you just need to be receiving one of the following benefits:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment

Head to Vodafone’s Essentials Broadband webpage for more.

Community Fibre

If you live in or around London, you could consider Community Fibre's Essential 20Mbps Fibre package.

For £12.50 per month on a 12-month contract, you get full fibre broadband with average download and upload speeds of 20Mbps.

Unlike other social tariffs, you don't need to be receiving any benefits to qualify – you just need to be a new Community Fibre customer.

You'll need to pay a £9.95 set-up fee.

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