Millions behind on paying broadband bills in UK

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2.5 million people in the UK are behind on their broadband bills, with 700,000 of them falling into the red during Covid, as Citizens Advice is calling on the government to ensure all providers offer low-cost broadband to people on low incomes.

Young people and those with children under 18 are three times more likely to be behind on their broadband bills, than older groups or those without children, according to new research from the charity.

Furthermore, households on Universal Credit are nine times as likely to be behind on their broadband bill compared to those not on the benefit.

The charity said that this comes at a time when people are more reliant on broadband to work and help their children with schoolwork, with UK adults spending an average of 22 hours online each week.

"Broadband is not a luxury, it's an essential, like gas and electricity," said Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice. "Lack of broadband creates yet another hurdle in the hunt for jobs, helping children with their schoolwork, and being able to access help, information, and fill in forms online. Those with a broadband connection can have a huge head start on those who don't."

Citizens Advice is calling on Ofcom and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport to urgently ensure all providers offer low-cost broadband to people on low incomes.

MPs concluded in January that the government's manifesto pledge to achieve universal full-fibre broadband coverage across the UK by 2025 is now unachievable. Businesses in rural areas will not receive full-fibre broadband until many years after the rollout across urban regions, with packages likely to cost more too, according to a government committee. Other key failings include not tackling major barriers faced by operators or guaranteeing the necessary skills or expertise in local areas to ensure a steady rollout.

Zach Marzouk

Zach Marzouk is a former ITPro, CloudPro, and ChannelPro staff writer, covering topics like security, privacy, worker rights, and startups, primarily in the Asia Pacific and the US regions. Zach joined ITPro in 2017 where he was introduced to the world of B2B technology as a junior staff writer, before he returned to Argentina in 2018, working in communications and as a copywriter. In 2021, he made his way back to ITPro as a staff writer during the pandemic, before joining the world of freelance in 2022.