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All you need to know about broadband social tariffs

Are you eligible for a discounted broadband service? We explain all you need to know about social tariffs, including which providers offer them and who can access them.
Yvette Fletcher

Broadband connections have become essential for communication, information and entertainment, so it's imperative that they are affordable for everyone. Social tariffs are special low-cost broadband deals offered to customers receiving benefits such as Universal Credit and Pension Credit (Guaranteed Credit).

Our research has shown that moving to a social tariff could save the average customer £250 a year if they're eligible. But lots of customers who could benefit from moving to a social tariff aren't aware they're available. Read on to learn which providers offer social tariffs and how much they cost, who is eligible for a social tariff and how to go about accessing one.


Are you getting the most from your broadband? Read our guide to the best and worst broadband providers to see how your provider fares in our survey.


What is a broadband social tariff?

Social tariffs are special discounted deals available for certain low-income customers. They're generally cheaper than typical broadband tariffs, starting at just £14.40 per month. They also usually aren't subject to price rises or exit fees.

Social tariffs are designed to act as a safety net for households that may otherwise struggle to afford broadband services. Research by the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has shown that an estimated 4.2 million households in the UK are eligible.

Who is eligible for social tariffs?

You're likely to be eligible for a social tariff if you receive a means-tested state benefit, such as Universal Credit, Pension Credit or legacy equivalents. 

The exact requirements depend on the broadband provider in question – some only offer social tariffs to Universal Credit recipients, while others extend eligibility to those on Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment & Support Allowance.

Those who receive Guarantee Credit (a top-up to Pension Credit) are also usually eligible. Some providers - such as KCOM and Hyperoptic - also offer social tariffs to vulnerable households that receive non-means-tested benefits, such as Personal Independence Payment.

Full list of broadband social tariffs and providers

Broadband social tariffPrice per monthAverage speedEligibilityAreas available
Air Broadband Support£20100MbpsVarious benefits (in and out of work)Selected towns and cities
BT Home Essentials£1536MbpsVarious benefits (in and out of work)Widely available
BT Home Essentials 2£2067MbpsVarious benefits (in and out of work)Widely available
Country Connect Social Tariff£1550MbpsVarious benefits (in and out of work)Wales
G.Network Essential Fibre Broadband£1550MbpsVarious benefits (in and out of work)London
Hyperoptic Fair Fibre 50£1550MbpsVarious benefits (in and out of work)Selected towns and cities
Hyperoptic Fair Fibre 150£25150MbpsVarious benefits (in and out of work)Selected towns and cities

Will a social tariff have a fast enough broadband connection?

There are a range of speeds available - some providers only offer standard-speed broadband (10-15Mbps) on their social tariffs, but superfast fibre speeds from 36-67Mbps are widely available. Standard-speed broadband is likely to be adequate if you only need your connection to browse, but most customers will benefit from superfast broadband. Learn more using our guide to broadband speeds.  

Eligible customers who live in certain parts of the UK can access even faster connections. Social tariffs with average speeds of 100Mbps or more are offered by Air Broadband (available in cities and towns including Derby, Gloucester, Hull and Nottingham) and Hyperoptic (available in areas including Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Newcastle).

Is it worth me signing up to a social tariff?

If you're eligible, it's worth weighing up your options. The key benefits of social tariffs are that they're affordably priced and you don't have to worry about the price going up - that's not the case with a lot of other broadband deals. 

Some providers offer affordably priced deals on their standard tariffs, but keep in mind that these prices are usually for a fixed period (12-24 months) and after that, they'll generally increase in price. Many also have annual price rises built in, so their cost will go up a little in March or April of next year. In most cases, they will also have an associated exit fee 

However, there are a couple of downsides to social tariffs - there aren't a huge amount of high-speed services available, plus you'll need to take the step of proving your eligibility to sign up (although providers are working to make this as straightforward as possible).

It can be possible to access cheap broadband deals that aren't social tariffs. Several big providers regularly offer competitively priced deals, including superfast broadband for £20-325 a month for new customers. Community Fibre (available in London) offers a special tariff for all customers struggling to stay on top of costs - £12.50 a month for 10Mbps.

Is it difficult to sign up for a social tariff?

There aren't too many hoops to jump through, but there are a couple of key ways that signing up for a social tariff is different to signing up for a typical broadband deal. 

The first thing to be aware of is that social tariffs don't show up on broadband switching sites and they don't usually show up if you enter your postcode on a provider's website. Providers usually have dedicated webpages for their social tariffs - we've included links in our table above.  In a lot of cases you'll need to get in touch with the provider via email or phone to sign up to a social tariff. 

When you sign up to a social tariff, you'll be asked to share evidence of eligibility in the majority of cases. This may include sharing a photo, screengrab or scan of your benefits statement. BT is an exception here - it has a special instant eligibility check that means you won't need to share any evidence. However, keep in mind that the person who receives the means-tested benefit must be the one who applies for the service.

Will I need to pay an exit fee to move over to a social tariff?

No - most providers will waive any early termination fees if you move from an existing contract to their social tariff.

I'm not eligible for a social tariff - what should I do?

If you're worried about the amount your broadband is costing you, the best steps to take depend on whether or not you're on a fixed-term contract.

If you are in a fixed-term contract, it's unlikely you will be able to exit without paying a termination fee. But if you ever have any difficulties making a payment for your service, don't not pay - contact your provider for support. Ask them what it can do to help - it might arrange an affordable payment plan for you, give you extra time to pay, help you move to a more affordable deal or reduce your bill. 

When we spoke to the major providers about how they support customers struggling with financial issues, all of them told us that customers should get in touch with them for help as soon as possible. Ofcom has made it clear that broadband providers should do all they can to keep people connected, plus the major providers have made a commitment to the UK government that they will support those struggling with their bills.

If you're not in a fixed-term contract with your broadband provider, you're likely to be able to reduce your costs by shopping around. You can choose to switch to a new provider - you'll then move onto an introductory offer that is likely to be affordably priced. To get started, read our guide on how to switch broadband provider.

In most cases, switching broadband provider is quick and easy - but if you're happy with yours, you may be able to reduce the cost of your service simply by asking. Find out more using our guide on how to haggle for the best broadband deal.

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Why don't all broadband providers offer social tariffs?

Both the telecoms regulator (Ofcom) and the Digital Secretary have called for more providers to offer social tariffs. We believe that providers that don't offer social tariffs should consider the support they're providing to low-income households and whether they can do more.

EE, Plusnet, Shell Energy Broadband, Vodafone and TalkTalk are all big broadband providers that don't currently offer social tariffs.

However, some providers do have other ways of supporting vulnerable consumers. TalkTalk partners with the Department for Work and Pensions to offer six months of free fibre broadband to certain jobseekers. Here, eligibility is determined by Jobcentre staff - speak to your Jobcentre Plus work coach if you think you might be eligible. After six months, you can choose to roll onnto a contract with TalkTalk or cancel the service free of charge.