BT Group’s policy and public affairs director Helen Burrows argued the UK government should look beyond social tariff uptake to narrow the online gap, suggesting a wider set of measures to help households better navigate the market and increase digital skills. 

In a blog post, Burrows said there has been little progress in reducing the number of those who are digitally excluded despite the range of discounted offerings available. 

Citing a report from research agencies, Burrows stated the “overlooked aspects” of getting more people online includes the fact that one million households cannot afford connectivity due to unemployment. She added “only government can help them change this” going forward. 

Meanwhile, two million people, accounting for 21 per cent of those eligible for social tariffs, earn sufficient income that “they are unlikely to need” discounted services. Burrows claimed many eligible households “are navigating the market well” and on average are paying £20 each month for broadband, a price Ofcom has set as a standard for social tariffs. 

The executive recommended narrowing the divide requires policymakers to focus on “very low-income households” and consider public funding for connectivity to further the agenda, as well as providing greater support for those who lack the skills and access to digital tools.