Viewpoint | 28 Sep 2022

Making social broadband a reality

Emma Reynolds, Vodafone's UK Head of Communications, Sustainability & Regulatory Affairs, argues that wholesale costs need to come down to enable the company to offer affordable social broadband tariffs.

The cost of living crisis continues to affect households up and down the country – and the latest indications are that budget pressures are going to get worse before they get better.

At Vodafone, we’re doing what we can to support our customers through these tough times, whether that’s through our £10 a month VOXI For Now social mobile tariff, our VeryMe Rewards that offer great value discounts, or our everyone.connected campaign to give vital connectivity to one million digitally excluded people. We also protect our financially vulnerable customers from annual price rises.

But we know there is still more to do.

How Vodafone's everyone.connected campaign is tackling digital exclusion

Nicki Lyons, Vodafone's UK Director of Corporate Affairs & Sustainability, explains how the company is fulfilling its mission to connect the disconnected and support vulnerable people.

We were able to launch our social mobile tariff last November – the only one on the market – because we use our own network and have greater control over our own costs. It’s much harder for us to do the same thing on home broadband.

The vast majority of our broadband customers connect to us via Openreach, the most profitable part of the BT Group. We pay a significant wholesale rate to Openreach for each of our customers: approximately two thirds of our customers’ broadband bill goes straight to Openreach to cover these costs.

We have some of the lowest-cost plans available on the market – our best-value broadband package costs just £22 a month. But it is difficult to discount this even further to create a viable social tariff on the Openreach network because BT Group has so far refused to enable an Openreach wholesale rate that would deliver for vulnerable customers.

We are looking into whether we are able to offer a social broadband tariff.  But a reduced social wholesale rate from Openreach would make this possible on a sustainable basis.

Last spring, we made a request to BT to introduce an Openreach social broadband wholesale tariff – they refused. And so, last month, we made it again, putting in a formal statement of requirement for a social wholesale rate.

Given the current cost of living crisis, we’d welcome a constructive response from Openreach and BT Group on this issue. We hope they’ll move to introduce a wholesale rate that will enable the widest possible availability of social tariffs, at the lowest possible prices.  That way we can all help ensure everyone has access to the connectivity they need.


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