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48% of Low Income Pensioners Struggle to Pay Broadband Bills

Thursday, Jul 13th, 2023 (12:01 am) - Score 672
Hands holding british pound coin and small money pouch

A new YouGov survey of 1,150 adults aged 65+ in England, which was commissioned by older people’s charity Independent Age, has claimed that 48% of respondents on a low income (under £15k a year) have struggled to keep up with their broadband ISP bill in the last 6 months (20% of those found it a constant struggle and 28% struggled from time to time).

Sadly, it’s not a big surprise that the cost-of-living crisis has hit those on the lowest incomes the hardest, which tends to be a particular issue for older adults who may be at or near retirement. The survey also found that 29% of respondents in financial hardship are worried they will not be able to pay their broadband bill over the next 6 months.

Elsewhere, 30% are currently having to cut back their spending on their internet, phone or TV subscription services a great deal or a fair amount, while 9% have already cancelled broadband and phone services over the winter in an effort to save money. Finally, 4% had already taken this action before the winter began, to save money.


Independent Age is now calling on both broadband ISPs and the UK Government to improve their promotions of cheaper Social Tariffs (available to those on state benefits) so that older people can find them. Ofcom recently reported that 220,000 premises or just 5.1% of households on Universal Credit (4.3 million) have taken such a tariff, which is low, but it’s also double what it was six months earlier.

Alternatively, if you only have basic needs and live in an area of reasonable 4G or 5G mobile coverage, then it may work out even cheaper to scrap fixed line broadband altogether and simply use your mobile broadband connection for internet tasks.

However, it’s worth remembering that the price we all pay for communication services is largely dwarfed by the colossal hikes in energy (e.g. gas and electricity), food and other bills. If people are struggling to afford even a fairly basic internet or mobile plan, which doesn’t typically form a large chunk of household bills, then they’ve probably got bigger concerns to worry about.

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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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20 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Phil says:

    They should offer FTTC or FTTP to OAPs £15 a month. The government should ACT!

    1. Avatar photo Phil says:

      Forget to add FTTC or FTTP on 40/10 service @ £15 a month

    2. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      If somebody is taking state benefits, then various ISPs already do that (Social Tariff).

    3. Avatar photo Richard Branston says:

      Many OAPs have net incomes higher than full time workers – offering all of them discounted rates would just necessitate price increases elsewhere.

      Likewise, no ISP should be forced to offer £15 FTTP as in most cases that won’t generate enough revenue across a large subscriber base to cover the cost of capital – which then impacts rollout of FTTP to other areas.

    4. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      You’ll be pleased to note that actual deserving pensioners – those deemed poor enough to receive pension credit – can already get FTTC for £15 a month. BT will sell you 80/20 plus a 700 minute landline service for that.

      Those with fat private pensions and assets won’t be able to take advantage. Maybe they could pay the bill from the savings on NI contributions that they don’t have to make on their considerable income?

    5. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      Mr Branston (your beans are better than heinz btw) – true, though in reality ISPs will want people on FTTP because that’s what the infrastructure owners want. There’s still immense cost savings that come from getting off the copper.

      I don’t see the likes of BT forcing its social credit users onto FTTC where FTTP is available, though they’d still get given the same speeds.

    6. Avatar photo Trying to speaking the truth says:

      @Ivor your comment sounds like sour grapes to me. If you don’t pay into a “fat” private pension yourself or own assets then I know who the fool is

  2. Avatar photo Phil says:

    @Mark Jackson – you are wrong about social tariff because if OAPs taking state pension – it won’t be entitled to it. Only the pension credit will do as not many OAPs on pension credits due to their private pension with state pension etc.

  3. Avatar photo PoweredByVeg says:

    Back in the day OAP’s where happy with 5 tv channels, a landline and a tv mag. Now they want FTTP, oh how times change

    1. Avatar photo wireless pacman says:

      Three tv channels, please!

    2. Avatar photo Sad really says:

      They escaped the matrix! And must have got bored watching last decades programming on repeat for the 397,000 time.

      Freeview is littered with re-runs. Pretty sad when I say to some older folk (that don’t understand things like the internet or smartphones) ‘you watched that yesterday’ or ‘that was on earlier this morning’. They simply watch the linear television for the sake of it and don’t even really like exploring the other channels either.

      One family member of mine stays up to midnight/early morning because at least then they escape the re-broadcast family friendly programs that fill up the schedule. After 9PM of course the somewhat edgier stuff comes on e.g. murder documentaries, “paranormal” investigations, & the like…

    3. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      It is not that they want FTTP, I suppose some do, but to live in this world people need a connection to the internet. Sure it is possible to live in this world without the internet, I know a couple that do, no mobile phone or internet, but it is not easy.

      It is a sad fact that the internet have become a utility just like water, Electric and gas and it is not going to change. Even making an appointment at our local doctor surgery is done view the net, it is possible to phone, but the receptionist, enter the data on the same site. The problem is getting through to them via phone, it is almost impossible unless you have a hour or so to spare.

      Really annoys me that we have to go online now to make a doctor appointment, would not be so bad if the serviceimproved.

  4. Avatar photo Brad Jones says:

    Ivor you are incorrect about BT social tariffs.

    It can vary based on area so not every one can even get the full speeds but these are what on offer.

    £15 – upto 36Mbps with landline 700 minutes calls.
    £20 – upto 80Mbps with landline unlimited calls.

    You need to pay £10 for router as well even if you already own one (most people will be switched to digital voice as well)

    1. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      Ok, I got the speed wrong – but the fact remains that poor pensioners do have access to affordable BT broadband (and if it is FTTP the speed will not vary, just as it doesn’t for the full price versions)

      Everyone’s got to move to DV or bin the landline at some point anyway

  5. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

    I wonder how many of these people are the type who just let their contracts expire and dont try to get a renewall discount and/or shop around?

    1. Avatar photo Happy world of Haribo says:

      I bet you a packet of Haribo Starmix that it’s in the 80% range. Staying for loyalty sake

    2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      I know a few people like that, I think I have got most of them now to get a better deal.

    3. Avatar photo Brad Jones says:

      Have you tried dealing with a lot of these companies they are awful and most times you don’t even get good offers.

      Yes you can shop around but it doesn’t mean you will get better deal plus risk of loss of service.

      The older generation do not understand a lot of this so unless a family member helps them they may not even know contract has expired.

      @anonymous it may be that people stick with it because they have had no issues so why change to another provider who could have awful customer services or issues happen.

      Older people like to keep landlines this means bill will be high and with many providers not even offering them with call bundle this limits options as well plus reports of many people losing numbers when switching to FTTP services.

      My parents didn’t want to change plusnet had served them very well for 6 years with them paying around £35 per month which included unlimited landline the price increased to almost £50 looking at other provided not many could offer the same for cheaper (their area had cityfibre available for almost 3 years only provider Voda a few others now but they are £40+ for broadband only no landline bundle)

    4. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

      @Brad Jones

      I have dealt with numerous ISPs over the years, also on behalf of other family members, so I do know what they’re like.

      In the case of say BT, Sky, etc. I’ve usually been offered at least on first try some kind of renewal discount e.g. £5-10. Which for someone struggling can be better than nothing.

      If they’re willing to switch, you may be able to get a decent deal e.g. Now Broadband 70/20 with Anytime calls is as of posting £29pm, although after 12 months this goes to £46.50.

  6. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately too many boomers still think we live in a high trust society, so as a result they stick with their ISP out of loyalty and never swap thinking that their loyalty will reward them. Doesn’t work like that. I remember one elderly woman I knew who was paying around £70-80 per month for her broadband and any time calls (can’t remember the exact figure but I did see the bill.) I don’t even think it was FTTC, it certainly wasn’t FTTP (it was around 2019 and her area still isn’t covered) I explained to her how she could get a better deal and showed some alternatives, what her ISP was giving new customers, and suggested she ring her provider to see what they could offer on a new contract. She was given an “offer” of around £40, which was still much higher than what they were giving new customers for the exact same package, and even the faster speeds were much cheaper than the offer. She took it since she didn’t want the hassle of moving or trying to haggle.

    It may sound cruel but I do think they need to do more themselves. We shouldn’t be relying on the government to force companies to do the “right” thing since we’d be here all day waiting for that, and it’s easy enough for them to sort things themselves.

Comments are closed

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