Virgin Media has announced plans to launch a 15Mbps cable broadband package available to Universal Credit recipients for just £15 a month.
Virgin Media’s new Essential Broadband comes without a cap on data usage and with 2Mbps upload speed. Customers will need to provide proof that they are receiving benefits to qualify.
The tariff will operate on a rolling, 30-day basis. It also won’t increase in price while the customer continues to receive benefit payments.
However, if the customer stops receiving benefits, the price will rise to £23 a month, more expensive than some faster FTTC plans, suggesting consumers would do better by switching at that point.
The discounted tariff is Virgin’s response to the coronavirus crisis, which has plunged many Britons to financial hardship. Difficulties are expected to deepen this autumn, as the government’s furlough scheme winds down and job losses mount.
Many households are already struggling to afford basic bills, including for energy and broadband: Citizens Advice has revealed that already an estimated six million Brits, or one in nine, have fallen behind on bills.
Essential Broadband, which will launch in the autumn, will initially be made available to existing Virgin Media customers who are struggling with their bills and are claiming Universal Credit.
Jeff Dodds, COO of Virgin Media, said: “We know that these are tough times and that there are many people finding it more difficult to make ends meet and facing financial uncertainty. At the same time, the role of broadband in helping people to stay connected has never been clearer. Whether it’s keeping in touch with friends and family, finding advice and support or searching for jobs and working remotely—broadband underpins it all.
“With this all in mind, we wanted to make sure that those customers receiving benefit payments were able to access reliable, hassle-free connectivity with enough speed to carry out essential online activities.”
Matt Warman, minister for digital infrastructure, welcomed the new tariff from Virgin.
“Having affordable access to the internet can improve people’s quality of life, connecting them with friends and family and giving them a tool to build a brighter future. That is why the government brokered major deals with broadband companies to support those struggling to pay bills right now,” he said.
“I want to see continued efforts to protect consumers beyond the pandemic and welcome Virgin Media offering a permanent package giving vulnerable and low-income families the flexibility to continue to benefit from reliable connectivity.”
Virgin’s new tariff is similar to BT’s existing Basic + Broadband plan, also exclusively available to benefit recipients. It costs £10.07 per month for an unlimited 10Mbps connection and also includes a call allowance of £1.50.
As of July, there were 5.6 million on Universal Credit, up 2% from June.
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