Openreach has said it will install broadband for free to UK households on Universal Credit that have no other earnings.
The company – which is owned by BT – would usually charge ISPs such as Sky or TalkTalk for connecting households to broadband, but the waiving of this installation charge as part of the ‘Connect the Unconnected’ offer means that it’s estimated about one million people could save up to £92, depending on how internet firms pass on the saving.
According to an Ofcom report published in July, two million households struggle to afford internet access.
These households cannot afford to pay the fees that the likes of Sky, Virgin Media or TalkTalk charge for connecting households to broadband.
The report noted that some ISPs had introduced low-cost tariffs for people on benefits, or improved existing ones, but it said take-up had been low and had only reached at most 1% of those in receipt of out-of-work benefits.
It suggested that if the industry did not do more, there would be a strong case for “exploring whether mandatory social tariffs would be necessary to fill the gaps in support, alongside other potential options”.
The ‘Connect the Unconnected’ offer will apply to households that receive Universal Credit with zero other earnings, which have not been connected to the Openreach network for the past 90 days.
Openreach’s decision to waive installation fees for Universal Credit households has been both welcomed and queried by analysts.
A spokesperson from The Good Things Foundation commented: “Access to data is a lifeline. Public services like Universal Credit are already online, and the pandemic has meant more of us are managing our health online through contacting GPs via video call, or making use of the NHS apps.”
Mark Jackson – Editor-in-Chief of broadband news site ISP Review – said the offer was “a positive development” but commented that caveats meant the announcement “may only have a limited impact” and it is yet to be seen how the savings would be passed on.
Openreach said ISPs can choose to implement the savings to customers in a number of ways, either by cutting costs up front or over the course of a contract.
Speaking about the new broadband offer, an Openreach spokesperson told the BBC that while the company could not insist that the savings were given to customers, “clearly the right thing to do would be to pass it on”.
Featured Image – Openreach