Social tariffs are available from a number of broadband providers, helping those on benefits get access to an internet connection at a much lower monthly price.
With the cost of living crisis and broadband price hikes driving up everyone's bills, Citizens Advice recently reported that up to one million people cancelled their broadband between May 2022-23. But a huge number of these households could have actually taken up these much cheaper social tariff broadband deals.
So if you're eligible for a social tariff, now is the perfect time to start paying less for your broadband.
Read on to see which providers offer low-cost internet service and find out how you can check your eligibility for them.
Social tariffs are a way to get broadband if you're receiving Universal Credit or another type of financial support. They're much cheaper than the standard monthly rate for the service and are reserved for these customers to help them afford the usual monthly price of a broadband connection.
They’re still usually the same speed and quality as other home broadband deals. The only difference is the monthly cost. Plus, they're not affected by annual mid-contract price hikes from providers either.
Uswitch recently found that two-thirds of financially vulnerable households are unaware that low-income broadband tariffs exist. That's a rough total of ten million homes that could save up to £234 a year, or nearly £20 per month, on a cheaper broadband contract*.
Read further down this page for our list of the latest broadband social tariffs.
If you don't receive government financial support but still want to find a low-cost broadband deal, you can take a look at cheap broadband deals on Uswitch.
Some providers offer a much cheaper broadband deal to help low-income customers afford a strong, reliable internet connection.
Browse the following options to see which providers offer discounted broadband deals for families on low incomes.
Read more about each deal below to find out if you’re eligible for your chosen deal.
BT offers a near-half-price fibre broadband deal that millions of low-income customers who receive government financial support can get.
BT Home Essentials offers part-fibre broadband speeds of 36Mbps but for a much cheaper monthly price of £15 per month. The regular deal, which is called BT Fibre Essential, usually costs around £28 per month.
If you’re looking for a low-income phone and internet service, BT Home Essentials also includes 700 minutes of calls as part of the package. And if you would like an even faster BT deal, you could upgrade to BT’s 67Mbps Fibre 2 deal for the heavily discounted price of £20 per month (usually around £33).
On the launch of the new half-price deal, CEO of BT's Consumer Division, Marc Allera, said:
"BT's purpose of Connecting for Good is at the heart of all we do, and a huge part of that is going above and beyond to support people who need it most. That's why we're launching BT Home Essentials, our low-cost fibre package that will now include all customers on Universal Credit, to provide a potential 4.6 million families across the UK with half-price fibre broadband and calls.
"BT Home Essentials will be available at half the price of our standard fibre package because fast, reliable connectivity to access vital online services – and keep in touch with loved ones – is more important than ever. It is a big step towards creating the connected, digitally inclusive UK we all want to see."
You can qualify for BT Home Essentials if you are on any of the following:
Employment and Support Allowance
In April 2023 Sky launched its first social tariff for people who claim Universal Credit and Pension Credit.
The discounted broadband deal, called Sky Basics, plus its sister company NOW's package, NOW Basics, costs £20 per month for 36Mbps broadband speed. Both plans also come with pay-as-you-go landline calls.
36Mbps is enough to handle most of a family's internet demands, which includes a couple of screens streaming while other family members scroll social media or listen to music. But at £20 per month, it's slightly more expensive than other social tariffs out there for similar internet speeds.
These social tariffs from Sky and NOW are only available to existing Sky and NOW customers, so you'll need to already be paying for a service from those providers in order to get your bill discounted.
You will also need to be claiming either Universal Credit or Pension Credit to qualify for the discount — the providers haven't detailed any other criteria for it.
Virgin Media offers two Essential broadband connections for customers who are facing financial difficulty or receiving Universal Credit. They come with no fixed-term contract and no changes to the monthly price while the customer continues to receive their Universal Credit payments.
For a monthly fee of £12.50, the Essential package supplies speeds of 15Mbps. With this speed, two people could stream HD video at once and there would still likely be enough bandwidth for social media scrolling at the same time. However, it’s still half the average speed you normally get from fibre broadband.
If you're looking for a faster speed, Virgin also offers a 54Mbps Essential Plus package for £20 per month. The same conditions apply; a 30-day rolling contract and no mid-contract price rises. 54Mbps is a much more suitable speed for larger families where multiple people will be streaming, working or gaming at the same time.
You should also keep in mind that these are broadband-only connections, given that Virgin Media’s network doesn’t require a landline to work. So if you also need a landline to make phone calls to family and friends, this package may not be the right choice.
To access Virgin Media Essential broadband, you will need to provide evidence that you are eligible for Universal Credit. You will receive more information on how to do this after your application is submitted.
Learn more about Virgin Media Essential broadband on its own site.
One of the most recent providers to announce a social tariff is Vodafone.
With Vodafone Essentials 1 and 2, you get access to:
38Mbps internet speeds for £12 per month, or
73Mbps internet speeds for £20 per month
Plus, they come in shorter 12-month contracts, with no mid-contract price rises or early exit fees. So you get a lot of flexibility when deciding how long you need the connection.
The low-income deals are available to all existing and new customers, provided you are eligible for the service.
Vodafone says you need to be in receipt of "specific government benefits" to qualify for its Vodafone Essentials broadband social tariffs. The financial support schemes that qualify for this offer are:
Personal Independence Payment
Employment and Support Allowance
To sign up for the deal, you first need to check you are eligible by completing a registration form. Vodafone will then run an eligibility check, and then call you if it succeeds to process your order. This should take about one week to happen.
Hyperoptic offers two discounted broadband deals at differing speeds for low-income households.
Hyperoptic offers an entry-level Fair Fibre Plan to eligible households for just £15 per month. It comes with a 50Mbps broadband speed, which is plenty of bandwidth for a small household.
The contract is available on a monthly rolling basis, which means you can cancel within 30 days if your financial situation happens to change. Installation is also free, and you'll have the option to add a £3 per month landline service with free evening and weekend calls.
This is the faster Fair Fibre option from Hyperoptic. You get all the same benefits as its Fair Fibre 50 plan, but instead a much faster broadband speed of 150Mbps.
If you have a household of five or more internet users, or there are people living with you who use the internet for heavy downloads and high-quality streaming, this speed might be better for you. Fair Fibre 150 comes at a monthly price of £25.
The Hyperoptic Fair Fibre Plan is available to individuals who use one of the following financial support schemes:
Income-related Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance
Personal Independent Payment (PIP)
Hyperoptic's broadband coverage is less widespread than BT or Virgin Media's. So you'll have to make sure have access to its full fibre network before you seek one of its Fair Fibre plans.
Full fibre broadband provider Community Fibre is the latest brand to announce a social tariff for its customers. And unlike other providers, it doesn't have any eligibility criteria to meet if you want to sign up for it.
The Essential package from Community Fibre offers 10Mbps speeds for just £12.50 per month. It's one of the cheapest broadband deals on offer in this article, but it also offers the joint-slowest broadband speed.
10Mbps is great for very small households who don't use the internet for much more than social media scrolling or a bit of Netflix streaming on the TV. But if you live in a household of three or more, you will likely need a faster connection.
Community Fibre won't ask you to prove that you're on any income support in order to get this deal, which essentially means that anyone can sign up.
The only thing you'll need to check is whether or not you can actually get this broadband package at your home. It's supplied by Community Fibre's full fibre network, which is primarily based around London for now, and to only a limited number of properties there.
If you're already a Community Fibre customer, this shouldn't be much of an issue. But if you're looking to choose this deal as a new customer, you'll have to make sure your property can access it.
From August 2022, providers themselves have started to confirm which customers are eligible for social tariffs, removing the need for customers to prove their own eligibility.
According to research, less than 2% of eligible customers were taking advantage of social tariffs, so this move is expected to make it easier for millions of people to cut down on their bills.
Those who qualify for cheaper plans will still need to give their permission for their contract to be changed, but this means they will no longer have to seek the verification themselves.
While the UK doesn't offer free broadband, Universal Credit receivers can qualify for heavily discounted broadband deals from a number of broadband providers.
In fact, TalkTalk recently announced a collaboration with Jobcentre Plus to offer six months of free broadband to those who are eligible. If you're not eligible but still on Universal Credit, your best bet would be to choose a specific low-income broadband deal offered by a UK home broadband provider, such as BT or Virgin Media.
You can read more about those below and read more about TalkTalk's deal here.
So even though there's no free internet for Universal Credit customers, there are many ways you can make your broadband bill a lot easier to manage. Read on for a range of specific deals for low-income customers.
In a recent statement, UK broadband network Openreach stated that it will install broadband for free to those households in the UK living on Universal Credit and with no other earnings.
Many major broadband providers operate on Openreach, including BT, Sky and TalkTalk, which means that they should be able to pass those savings on to new customers. This would save an estimated one million people up to £92 and would help those who have had to struggle without internet access to get connected.
A recent report from Ofcom revealed that some two million UK households struggle to afford internet services. And only 1% of those on out-of-work benefits had signed up for low-cost broadband tariffs offered to those on low incomes. Hopefully, the removal of an installation charge can help more households get online soon.
It’s worth noting, however, that broadband providers can choose how they pass on the savings to customers. This could be by removing upfront costs or lowering monthly fees over the length of the contract. And an Openreach spokesperson recently told the BBC that while it could not insist that the savings were given to customers, "clearly the right thing to do would be to pass it on".
There are many low-cost broadband deals to choose from. They aren’t as cheap as the deals mentioned above, but they come with some of the lowest monthly prices you could find on the broadband market.
Instead of being basic or limited plans, most of these offers are full packages with the usual bells and whistles you get with broadband service. Plus, you’ll have more flexibility to choose additional services should you wish to.
Here's a quick look at some of the cheapest broadband deals on Uswitch:
Find more cheap broadband deals on Uswitch below. Once you add your postcode, press the ‘Sort by’ drop-down menu, select ‘Cost (low to high)’ and you will see the cheapest deals available on our site.
And if you don't qualify for a Universal Credit broadband deal but you're concerned your credit score might stop you from getting a broadband deal, take a look at our guide on how to get broadband with no credit check.
Broadband providers in the UK have also recently started waiving early exit fees for any customer who wants to move onto a cheaper tariff. So if you're looking to cut down on your current broadband bill, you won't be charged for doing so.
*Respondents in our study were asked ‘How much do you - or whoever pays your bills - currently spend on your household’s broadband/landline bill(s) every month?’ The average figure for people eligible for social tariffs was £34.50 (compared to £39 not eligible). Swapping to BT’s £15-a-month Home Essentials tariff is a £19.50 a month saving. £19.50 x 12 months x 10.3 million people = £2.4 billion potential saving on broadband.
Want to know how to choose broadband? Uswitch explains what to look for in our quick guide on choosing the best type of broadband for you and your household.Read our guide to choosing the right deal