Election: Long-Bailey outlines 'benefits' of free broadband
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It's been talked about for a number of years but now the Government's Digital Infrastructure Minister, Matt Warman, has announced from October 5 those on Universal Credit with no additional income will be eligible for free super-fast broadband connection if they are with an Openreach provider. The 'Connect the Unconnected' initiative will ensure that those people who are struggling to pay their household bills still have access to fast internet, so that they aren't discriminated against and can still look for education opportunities and apply for work.
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How do I claim free broadband connection?
It's up to the individual broadband providers to pass the savings on to their customers – companies that use the Openreach network include BT, Sky, Talk Talk, EE and Utility Warehouse.
Customers won't need to do anything as their internet provider, who is responsible for the initial broadband connection, will factor this into their bills – although they may of course ask for proof of claiming Universal Credit.
Whether these providers ensure people have very little upfront cost to pay, or spread the reduction over the period of the first 12 months contract, is up to them, but the changes will be coming into effect from October 5 – meaning anyone signing up after this date should be entitled to the savings.
People on Universal Credit with no other income will qualify (Image: Getty)
Mr Warman said internet connection costs should not stop people from goinng digital.
He said: "We have been working closely with Openreach and the wider sector to build a broadband market where cost is not a constraint to getting online.
“This welcome step will help people struggling with bills access the connectivity they need to thrive in today's digital age."
It's hoped the move will help one million low income households stay connected, look for education opportunities and apply for jobs.
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The UK's regulator Ofcom recently highlighted affordability as a barrier for some households stating that a good broadband connection was essential for those looking for work.
Furthermore it said that it is also beneficial when it comes to social inclusion and feeling like a part of the local community.
It's been working closely with Openreach to introduce this initiative which it hopes will make a huge difference to lots of people and their families.
Katie Milligan, Managing Director for Customer, Commercial and Propositions at Openreach, said: "We hope this offer complements the range of existing support from providers across the industry and helps people who aren't already online to start benefiting from the wealth of information, connectivity and opportunities that great broadband can deliver."
How much you could get on Universal Credit (Image: Getty)
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for The Good Things Foundation which has been campaigning for better digital access for people all over the world, welcomed the announcement describing it as 'a lifeline'.
"Access to date is a lifeline," the spokesperson said. "Public services like Universal Credit are already online, and the pandemic has meant more of us are managing our health online through contacting GPS via video call, or making use of the NHS apps."
The 'Connect the Unconnected' offer is available from 5th October to all households that are out of work and receive Universal Credit.
It won't be available to working people who have their wages topped up with Universal credit or those who have been connected to the Openreach network in the last 90 days.
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About 1.5 million homes in the UK still do not have internet access, according to Ofcom.
Openreach providers are obliged to pass the savings on so his 'Connect the Unconnected' scheme could encourage them to bite the bullet and go digital.
They'll either get a free connection or the savings could reduce their monthly bills.
Virgin and some super-fast broadband companies don't use the Openreach infrastructure so always check before signing up.
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