Your Basic Guide to Broadband on Benefits

The world is growing increasingly connected. In many parts of the globe, internet is now classified as a “basic human right.” Yet, despite this, only 51% of households earning between £6,000 and £10,000 per year are likely to have internet access. 

While access to the web might not have seemed essential a few years ago, it’s becoming much more difficult to live without internet. We need the net for everything from communication, to ensuring workplace productivity. Unfortunately, the price of broadband is still making getting online impossible for many people. 

Fortunately, there are options, particularly for those receiving benefits like Job Seekers Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Housing Benefit, Universal Credit, and Disability Allowance. You could get the internet without spending a fortune.

Are There Broadband Deals for People on Benefits?

Broadband deals do exist for people with a limited income. The following packages are aimed at people receiving specific benefits, so you’ll need to prove you’re getting these benefits to access the deal. Here are your options.

BT Home Essentials

This low-cost phone and broadband package launched in June 2021 to replace the “BT Home Basic” package, which previously offered access to low-cost broadband. The Home Essentials product offers fiber optic broadband with an average speed of between 36 and 67MB. The 36MB deal, with 700 minutes of calls is £15 per month, while the 67MB service with unlimited calls is £20.

A phone line-only service is £10 per month, with unlimited calling. While these packages are more expensive than the older BT Basic service, they’re much cheaper than standard plans. You’ll need one of the following for BT Home Essentials:

  • Universal credit (with 0 earnings)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
  • Pensions credit (Guaranteed credit)
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income support

Hyperoptic Fair Fibre

The Hyperoptic team offers the “fair fibre” packages for discounted broadband when you’re receiving certain benefits. Fair fibre gives you £7 off the 50MB broadband service (which makes it £8), or £10 off the 150MB package (which makes it £15). You can access this if you have:

  • Pension credit
  • Attendance allowance
  • Income-related Jobseekers allowance
  • Care leavers support
  • Housing benefit
  • Personal independence payment
  • Universal credit
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

The availability of Hyperoptic is limited because it’s a Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) provider, and only a small number of homes currently have access to its network.

KCOM Flex

If you live in a part of the country covered by KCOM (Such as Hull or Yorkshire), KCOM offers cheap Flex packages to eligible customers. You’ll pay £9 per month for ADSL if you don’t have access to fibre. If you do have fibre, you’ll be able to use LightStream Flex at £20 per month. 

There’s a data usage limit on all ADSL packages, while LightStream usage is unlimited, with a 12-month minimum contract. You’ll need one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Pension credit
  • Jobseeker allowance
  • Housing benefit
  • Personal independence payment
  • Attendance allowance
  • Universal credit (with 0 earnings)
  • Employment and Support Allowance. 

Care Leavers, Care Home Residents, and Lifeline customers can also access these deals. 

Virgin Media Essential

Offered only to existing Virgin Media customers, Essential broadband is an option for users receiving Universal Credit. With Essential, you’ll get a broadband-only service, with download speeds of 15MB for £15 per month. There isn’t a way to add a phone line.

If you’re not a Virgin customer already, you also can’t sign up for the service either. This could be problematic if you’re not with Virgin already, as you may have to sign up to a normal package, then switch to Essential. 

TalkTalk for Jobseekers

TalkTalk offers 6 months of free, unlimited fibre-optic broadband to eligible jobseekers. As part of the Flexible Support fund, TalkTalk supplies referral codes to the Department of Work and Pensions, and they’ll give them out based on who needs them most. These codes provide users with 35MB of home broadband free of charge. You can continue on a standard contract after 6 months or cancel the contract.

Will These Deals Provide Good Performance?

The performance you get from free and cheap broadband deals will depend on the provider. Compared to other low-cost broadband deals available for standard customers, the options above can be extremely limited, with caveats like:

  • Data limitations: You may be limited to a daily usage limit, or a monthly limit on your data, with penalties if you exceed the cap. Where possible, an unlimited broadband package will be much more flexible. 
  • Phone lines: Most broadband packages will require an Openreach phone line. Even if a provider doesn’t use BT, a phone line is a common requirement. If this is an issue, you may need to consider wireless broadband. Every broadband deal which requires a phone line needs to include line rental in the price. Hyperoptic and Virgin Media don’t require a phone line, but they don’t offer one either, which means you’d have to pay more if you want a landline.
  • Inclusive calls: most broadband deals offered for people on benefits come with a phone package and some calling allowance. Some bundles are generous, whereas others are more limited. You can consider an inclusive calls package if you use your landline a lot.
  • Slow speeds: Customers on benefits packages will tend to get slower speeds than those with a standard package from the same provider. This might not matter to some people, but slow internet can be quite frustrating. Think about how you’re going to be using your internet, and what kind of speed you need. One or two people with light web browsing usage (web browsing, social media, email) can usually manage with a speed of around 10MB on an ADSL service. Families may require faster, fibre optic broadband.

Do I Need to Pass a Credit Check?

Some broadband providers will require you to pass a credit check, but this isn’t always necessary. Some providers like NOW, Plusnet, and DirectSave Telecom will offer access without a credit check if you’re worried about marks on your financial record. These companies don’t offer deals for those on benefits, however. BT Home Essentials does require a credit check, but you won’t necessarily need a high score to pass. For more information, Broadband Genie have a guide to broadband deals with no credit check.

What happens to my contract if my employment status changes?

When you sign up for a benefits broadband package, your provider will check you’re in receipt of a qualifying benefit. They also need to check this on a regular basis. When you become ineligible for the deal, you’ll usually be moved onto a standard service, so your broadband isn’t disrupted. However, at this point, it’s often best to check your options for a better deal. Click here to compare cheap broadband deals.

Alternative ways to get online

If you’re not eligible for the packages above, there are still a few ways to get online, such as:

  • Public Wi-Fi hotspots: Connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot with your phone at a pub, restaurant, supermarket, café, or even a local Wi-Fi-enabled bus. 
  • Library computers: Libraries often offer access to computers for free. You may need to book a time slot, however.
  • Smartphone tethering: Smartphones can be connected to a PC or laptop over Wi-Fi, so you can use the data on your phone to link to the internet. Be careful to keep track of your data usage and confirm with your network provider if they allow tethering first. 

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