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Low UK Incomes Still Holding Back Home Broadband Adoption

Tuesday, Jul 22nd, 2014 (12:04 pm) - Score 345

A second study from the UK telecoms regulator today, which looks at the affordability of communication services, reveals that the majority of consumers view phone, mobile and Internet connectivity as “essential” and (86%) “never had difficulties meeting the costs” of such connectivity. But the story is different for those on lower incomes.

According to Ofcom’s study (here), 74% of the minority that have had difficulties paying for communications services have been careful about spending while managing their communications costs and 45% even cut back on luxuries, while 36% opt for cheaper goods or services. Similarly 7% of consumers, particularly those in low income households, said they would like to have broadband but don’t because of the cost.

In fairness broadband services in the United Kingdom are some of the cheapest in the world, with the likes of Primus Saver and TalkTalk offering related packages for around a couple of pounds per month. Unfortunately the reality is usually a little bit more complicated than that because the cheapest services almost universally still require you to pay approximately £16 per month for phone Line Rental, which means shelling out roughly £20 for both; difficult if you’re only just scraping by on a few quid.

On the other hand some operators, such as BT, offer a Basic Line Rental option from the equivalent of £5.10 a month for those on state benefits etc. Some ISPs, such as Virgin Media and a few true fibre optic (FTTH/P/B) providers, are also able to do away with the phone service altogether but their broadband packages are often more at the premium than budget end of the market. For many it may seem easier buy a cheap Mobile Broadband equipped tariff, although these often suffer from meagre usage allowances (especially when Tethering to a computer or tablet etc.).

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said:

While it’s encouraging that the majority of people don’t experience difficulties paying for their communications services, it’s important that help is available for those who do. We’re working to ensure that all consumers can benefit from the communications services which are most important for modern life.”

The regulator said they were working to tackle the situation by improving links between debt charities and ISPs in order to “encourage them to be more responsive to the changing circumstances of consumers“, while also doing more to raise awareness of affordable deals and conducting reports such as the one above.

The forthcoming introduction of an easier switching process between broadband and phone providers will also help, although this won’t even be completed for another year and ISPs will then be given time to launch it. It’s worth remembering that state benefits have been cut back a lot in recent years, while many incomes have also suffered, yet the cost of line rental continues to rise.

Never the less the real cost of living problem comes from how much you spend on food, water, taxes and energy etc. But it’s always worth remembering that having Internet access gives you the ability to do a lot of things more cheaply, which means it can effectively pay for itself.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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