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BT to Launch Fibre Broadband Social Tariff

From June, BT’s new social tariff will be available to all recipients of Universal Credit, delivering fibre broadband speeds for just £15 per month.

The internet giant’s current social tariff, BT Basic, limits download speeds to 10Mbps, delivered over copper telephone lines. These speeds are too slow for many busy households of internet users, especially ones using video calls for work and education.

The new Home Essentials tariff costs £5 more per month (£15 vs £10.07) but delivers speeds of 36Mbps over BT’s FTTC and FTTP networks. You’ll also get 700 minutes of landline calling each month.

The price is roughly half of what BT charges for its standard fibre plans. The Home Essentials tariff is available to all households on Universal Credit or other means-tested benefits, including Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, and Employment and Support Allowance. A total of 4.6 million households are eligible. Previously, BT Basic was limited to those on means-tested benefits and Universal Credit with zero earnings. 

For an additional £5 per month, you can boost your average speeds to 67Mbps and have unlimited calls. BT will launch both packages at the end of June.

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Division, said: “Fast, reliable connectivity has never been as important as it is today, with millions of people relying upon our networks to get back on their feet after the pandemic.

“We want to help as many people as we can, which is why at the end of June we’ll be launching BT Home Essentials, increasing the eligibility of our social tariff to include all customers on Universal Credit. BT Home Essentials will be available at half the price of our standard fibre package, helping a potential four million households on low income save on bills and stay connected to vital online services.”

The government welcomed the launch of the new discounted broadband tariff. Matt Warman, UK Digital Infrastructure Minister, said: “In today’s digital world, everyone should be able to access fast, reliable and affordable internet, so I’m thrilled that BT is the latest provider to launch new deals for low income households.”

Warman said he hoped other internet providers would follow BT’s lead in launching affordable tariffs for those struggling with their telecoms bills. 

A recent study from Citizens Advice found that one in six UK households struggle to afford their broadband bills, including 27% of those on means-tested benefits and disproportionate numbers of households with children, people with disabilities, BAME Britons, young people and households shielding from COVID-19. Ofcom’s research has similarly found that 4.7 million households struggle to afford their telecoms bills.

A number of MPs have urged the regulator to require ISPs to offer discounted service to households on benefits. Ofcom has already “strongly encouraged” ISPs to consider launching cut-price tariffs and is conducting research into affordability in the sector, which may eventually lead to the introduction of an industry-wide regulated social tariff.

Currently, four ISPs, including BT, have social tariffs, some of them introduced in the last few months. Virgin Media’s Essential Broadband plan, launched in November, offers speeds of 15Mbps for £15 per month to all Universal Credit recipients. 

Hyperoptic’s Fair Fibre Plan, on offer since March, offers full-fibre plans with average speeds of 50Mbps for £15. It’s available to households on certain benefits and connected to its network.

In Hull, KCOM offers Lightstream Flex, speeds of 30Mbps download and 15Mbps upload for £20 per month. However, it throttles speeds to a glacial 128kbps once you exceed a 20GB data allowance. The data cap was reintroduced on 1 April 2021 after being suspended for a large part of last year due to the pandemic.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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