UK telecoms regulator Ofcom is looking to promote ‘social tariffs’ in the UK.

Essentially, social tariffs are the same as ‘normal’ packages but offered at a lower price (typically ranging from £10 to £20 per month) and providing 30Mbps broadband or more. The tariffs also may include set-up costs, but there should generally be no charge for changing providers. In addition, there are no financial penalties for leaving a contract and prices cannot be increased mid-contract.

The Ofcom tariffs apply to broadband and phone packages offered to people claiming benefits such as Universal Credit and Pension Credit. This is of particular relevance during the ‘cost of living crisis’ and take-up of such services has tended to be disappointing to date. Ofcom lists a wide range of offerings from 24 service providers which includes household names such as BT/EE, Sky, Virgin Media O2, and Vodafone, alongside niche providers like Country Connect (Wales), KCOM (Hull), RunFibre (South Gloucestershire, and WightFibre (Isle of Wight).

Ofcom is to be applauded

Social tariffs have the potential for service providers to gain ESG ‘brownie points’. Importantly, they also offer an opportunity to grow market share and to add revenues on what are essentially largely sunk costs (adding social tariff customers is a marginal cost).

Of course, it is ironic that accessing Ofcom’s service provider list requires online capability. So it might be hoped that a promotion through ‘dead tree’ media will accompany this effort to help a broader base of citizens benefit from increasingly essential technology access for the often-forgotten offline population.

Digital inclusion is a challenge in the current economic environment, but also a key enabler of offering opportunity across all of society. This initiative by Ofcom and UK service providers should be universally applauded.

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By GlobalData