, ,

Darren Jones: “It’s time for a social broadband tariff to end digital poverty”

MP calls for new ‘social tariff’ for broadband for children on free school meals.

Today in Parliament, Darren Jones is introducing the Internet Access Bill. This Ten Minute Rule Bill could extend access to an affordable social tariff for broadband to 1.4 million children on free school meals.

On Wednesday 20th January, Darren Jones MP (Labour, Bristol North West) will introduce a Ten Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons that demands the Government use existing powers to introduce a social tariff for broadband that is affordable for low-income families.

The Bill will also call for the eligibility for a broadband social tariff to be extended to include every household with a child on free school meals, which, according to January 2020 data from the House of Commons Library, means over 1.4 million children could be entitled to receive low-cost broadband.      

The Secretary of State for Digital Culture Media and Sports already has the statutory powers (UK Statutory Instrument: The Electronic Communications and Wireless Telegraphy Regulations 2020) to require Ofcom, the broadband regulator, to set up a social tariff for broadband. Ofcom would define what ‘affordable’ is and Internet Service Providers will be required to provide it.

So far, this bill has the support of three former DCMS Secretaries of State, Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP, Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, and Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP and dozens of other MPs including the official spokespersons for the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and Plaid.

Commenting, Mr Jones, who chairs the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said: 

“Temporary uplifts to mobile data and free access to certain educational websites during the lockdown are important, but temporary. We need a long-term solution to digital poverty in our country, especially for children who need internet access for educational purposes. My Bill merely highlights the powers that already exist in law to introduce a social tariff for broadband. It doesn’t ask for new legislation or money from the Treasury.”

The broadband regulator, Ofcom, estimates that one in five UK households frequently struggle to pay monthly telecoms bill and nearly two million children are missing out on education because their household lacks broadband or a computer.

Commenting Helen Milner OBE, the Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation, said

The Covid pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated an existing inequality in access to the internet. We support Darren Jones’ call for a social tariff for broadband, which we believe will make a fundamental difference to this issue for many children and low-income households across the country. By offering routes to low-cost internet access, we can ensure that no parent will have to choose between feeding their children or helping them to learn online.”