2.5 million people behind on broadband bills

·2-min read

Some 2.5 million people have fallen into the red on their broadband bills – with 700,000 falling into debt during the pandemic, Citizens Advice has reported.

Young people and those with children aged under 18 are three times more likely than older groups or those without children to be behind on their broadband bills, the charity found.

Households on Universal Credit are nine times more likely to be behind on their bill compared to those not on the benefit.

The increase in those in debt comes as more households have found themselves reliant on broadband to work and help their children with schoolwork.

Citizens Advice is warning that broadband is an essential utility, and that mobile data is not a substitute, particularly for tasks such as filling in job applications or when multiple devices are required for working from home and schoolwork.

The charity said it was helping people who could not afford broadband in the first place, or were cutting back elsewhere to keep their connection.

In December, regulator Ofcom “strongly urged” all providers to consider offering cheaper broadband tariffs for those on a low income or who are struggling financially. Only two nationwide and two local providers currently offer these tariffs – usually for people on Universal Credit.

Ofcom is expected to release a report this month into whether further action is needed.

Citizens Advice is calling on Ofcom and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to urgently ensure all providers offer low-cost broadband to people on low incomes.

Citizens Advice chief executive Clare Moriarty said: “Broadband is not a luxury, it’s an essential, like gas and electricity.

“Lack of broadband creates yet another hurdle in the hunt for jobs, helping children with their schoolwork, and being able to access help, information and fill in forms online. Those with a broadband connection can have a huge head start on those who don’t.

“Ofcom and the government must ensure everyone can afford their broadband, no matter which provider they are with. People shouldn’t be penalised simply because their provider isn’t one of the few firms that offers a cheaper tariff.”

ICM Unlimited surveyed 6,001 UK adults in March and April.