As many as one million people cut off their broadband in the last year as the cost-of-living crisis left them unable to afford internet access, according to new research from national charity Citizens Advice.
People receiving universal credit were badly affected. The research found them to be six times more likely to have stopped spending on broadband in the last 12 months amidst rising bills, compared to non-claimants.
In addition, those on universal credit who have broadband and more than four times likely to be behind on the bill than those not on the benefit.
The findings come from an online survey, carried out by Walnut Unlimited, of 6,000 adults in the UK with a total of 1,215 recipients of universal credit.
They also have significant implications for digital inclusion and the effects of the increasing emphasis on online access to public services.
Citizens Advice attributed the problem partly to the low take-up of social tariffs on broadband services – currently estimated at just 5%.
Last month communications regulator Ofcom and consumer organisation Which? launched a campaign to raise awareness of the tariffs.
Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “People are being priced out of internet access at a worrying rate. Social tariffs should be the industry’s safety net, but firms’ current approach to providing and promoting them clearly isn’t working. The people losing out as a result are the most likely to disconnect.
“The internet is now an essential part of our lives - vital to managing bills, accessing benefits and staying in touch with loved ones.
“As providers continue to drag their feet in making social tariffs a success, it’s clear that Ofcom needs to hold firms’ feet to the fire.”