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Broadband deals for low-income families: Find broadband social tariffs and cheap offers

Looking for cheap broadband? Compare prices from top providers and get a great deal

Broadband has become an essential utility, much like heating our homes. Our everyday activities rely on a broadband connection, but some families struggle to afford it. Fortunately, in 2022, broadband social tariffs were introduced to help those on low-income benefits gain access to affordable broadband.

Our guide explains everything you need to know about social tariffs, their eligibility criteria and which providers offer them. Even if you don’t qualify for these tariffs, read on to discover how and where to get cheap broadband.

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What are broadband social tariffs?

Broadband social tariffs are discounted deals offered to qualifying households who are receiving certain benefits or financial support from the government. Broadband providers who offer this type of deal ensure the cost is kept at a minimum – usually between £12 and £25 per month.

Our home tech experts say, “Social tariffs are a way of offering an essential utility at an affordable price. Broadband speeds are generally the same as other deals. However, social tariff deals are usually a provider’s ‘essential’ deals – it’s unlikely superfast broadband speeds are available on these plans. Social tariffs also tend to come with shorter contracts and without cancellation fees or mid-contract price hikes.”

Broadband social tariff deals for low-income families

With the continued cost-of-living crisis, many broadband providers are still offering affordable broadband deals. According to Ofcom, more than 4 million UK families who are eligible for such deals are missing out on average annual savings of £144.

The list of providers who offer social tariffs is growing, and many big-name providers, such as BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone and TalkTalk, all have deals aimed at low-income families.

Provider and tariffPrice and dealAverage speedEligible households should receive one of the followingHow to sign up
4th Utility Social Tariff£13.9930MbpsIncome Support, Pension Credit, Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support AllowanceSign up via the 4th Utility website
BT Home Essentials£15-2336Mbps or 67MbpsNo income, Universal Credit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Pensions CreditApply via the BT website or in-store. Alternatively you can call BT
Connect Fibre Basic Essentials£25150MbpsIncome Support, Pension Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Personal Independence Payment, Disability Benefit, Attendance Allowance, Universal Credit, Care Leavers Support, Income-related Employment or Support AllowanceCall 0808 304 9000
EE Basics£1225MbpsUniversal Credit, Pension Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income SupportCall 0800 956 600
Grayshott Gigabit Connect£19100MbpsIncome Support, Pension Credit, Universal Credit with no income, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Care Home residents and Lifeline, Care Leavers Support or Employment and Support AllowanceRegister via Grayshott’s website
Hyperoptic Fair Fibre£15-2050-150MbpsAttendance Allowance, Care Leavers Support, Housing Benefits, Personal Independence Payment, Income-based Employment and Support Allowance, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Universal CreditCall 0203 318 3209 or email
NOW Broadband Basics£2036MbpsPension Credit, Universal Credit, Income-based Employment, Support Allowance, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income SupportCall 0333 759 5056
Shell Essentials£15-2011Mbps or 38 MbpsEmployment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Universal CreditNew customers call, 0330 175 9942. Existing customers call 0330 094 9181
Sky Broadband Basics£2011-36MbsUniversal Credit, Pension Credit, Income-based Employment Support Allowance, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support. For existing customers onlyCall 0333 759 3881
SMARTY Social Tariff£12UnlimitedIncome-based Employment Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Universal CreditVia the SMARTY website
Virgin Media Essential Broadband£12.50-2015-54MbpsUniversal Credit, Pension Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income-based Employment Support AllowanceApply via Virgin Media’s website
Vodafone Essentials£12 for Fibre 1 Essentials or £20 or Fibre 2 Essentials38Mbps or 73MbpsUniversal Credit, Pension Credit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payments, Reduced Earnings Allowance or Disability AllowanceRegister via Vodafone’s website. Use the postcode checker to verify eligibility. If eligible, Vodafone will call you
VOXI for NOW£10UnlimitedJobseeker’s Allowance, Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Allowance or Personal Independence PaymentVia VOXI website
YouFibre Social Tariff£1550MbpsIncome Support, Pension Credit, Income-related Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance or Universal CreditCall 0800 270 0100

Who is eligible for broadband social tariffs?

Social tariffs are usually available for households who receive Universal Credit, Pension Credit and other benefits, such as Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support.

However, each provider usually has its own benefits criteria that may include ones not listed above. You can check your eligibility by contacting a provider directly or find the information in our broadband social tariffs table above.

Providers can verify your eligibility

With any social tariff, the provider will likely need to verify whether you qualify for the deal. This process was made easier thanks to a rule change in 2022, which allows providers to check a customer’s eligibility without requiring them to provide proof.

This removes the need for the customer to apply directly. If your provider discovers that you’re eligible, it will need your permission to switch you to a social tariff.

Can I get free broadband?

No broadband providers in the UK currently offer free broadband, but jobseekers who receive Universal Credit might be eligible for six months of free broadband from TalkTalk. The provider launched a national scheme with the Department of Work and Pensions. Those who meet the eligibility criteria may be offered a fibre broadband deal with speeds of up to 38Mbps. The plan lasts for six months, and it comes with no obligation to carry on once the free period ends.


Free broadband installation for low-income families

Openreach, owned by BT Group, has launched a free broadband installation programme for families who receive Universal Credit with no other income. Eligible families can save up to £92 on installation charges for Openreach broadband charges.


Which providers use the Openreach network? 

BT, Sky and TalkTalk.


How does it work?

Your chosen broadband provider from the above list can choose to pass on savings by either removing the upfront cost or lowering the cost of the monthly bill for the duration of your broadband contract.


How much can you save?

Up to £92 on installation charges.

How to get cheap broadband if you don’t qualify for a social tariff

For those who don’t qualify for a social tariff, some providers still offer low-cost deals. For instance, the Community Fibre Essential deal is £12.50 per month regardless of your income status; however, it’s only available to households with London postcodes.

Cheap broadband deals usually offer a more affordable monthly fee but often come with slower speeds. Our home tech experts suggest choosing one of the packages from TalkTalk or NOW Broadband, as they’re affordable and offer decent speeds.

Frequently asked questions about broadband for low-income families

The best thing you can do is to make your provider aware of your current situation. Some providers have schemes to help families who are struggling with the costs of broadband. By speaking to your provider you may be able to lower your monthly fee or move to a cheaper deal. Ofcom says it has asked providers to allow a sufficient amount of time for customers to seek help before commencing debt collection or disconnecting services.

Yes, it is still possible to get a broadband deal with a bad credit history. The checks carried out by your broadband provider are not overly strict, they are unlikely to check your credit score. If you are concerned, you could choose a provider that doesn’t check your credit at all, such as Plusnet and Now Broadband.

Broadband social tariffs are a great way to keep costs to a minimum. However, most social tariffs do offer slower broadband speeds than the more premium packages. This isn’t to say they’re not as good. Slower broadband speeds could hinder you if your internet usage is heavy or you have multiple devices connecting simultaneously.

Social tariff contract lengths vary between providers. Most broadband social tariffs last for six months and usually come without a cancellation fee to allow switching or cancellation at any time. Some social tariffs are 12-month contracts, but will usually still come without cancellation fees.

Rachel Sadler new profile April 2024

Rachel Sadler

Home Tech Writer

Rachel is a seasoned writer who has been producing online and print content for seven years. 

As a home tech expert for Independent Advisor, Rachel researches and writes buying guides and reviews, helping consumers navigate the realms of broadband and home security gadgets. She also covers home tech for The Federation of Master Builders, where she reviews and tests home security devices. 

She started as a news and lifestyle journalist in Hong Kong reporting on island-wide news stories, food and drink and the city’s events. She’s written for editorial platforms Sassy Hong Kong, Localiiz and Bay Media. While in Hong Kong she attended PR events, interviewed local talent and project-managed photoshoots. 

Rachel holds a BA in English Language and Creative Writing and is committed to simplifying tech jargon and producing unbiased reviews.