More than 7 million people living in the UK are unable to afford or access mobile data and broadband, meaning they will be struggling to find a job, study or do school homework. Low income families will now be able to access free mobile data and broadband through a new scheme to help families and households to get connected.
Virgin Media 02 have launched their new scheme called ‘National Databank’ it will hold 319 million hours of internet use to be donated to more than 200,000 people in need. The scheme will launch in November, 2021 and will try to help and support the 7 million people in the UK who are struggling with no access to the internet. The scheme will be available as data vouchers or sim cards and will be distributed by 5,000 community groups across the UK. The internet will be trialled at 10 community organisations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Pilots have already been launched in: Northumberland, Birmingham, Inverness, Liverpool, Stockport, Hounslow, North shields, Belfast and Llanelli and the final centre is yet to be confirmed.
The new scheme will only be available to existing service users and staff will start to contact those who will qualify for the free broadband and mobile data, the ‘National Databank’ will be open for other mobile and broadband providers to donate internet hours to those who are unable to afford access. Following the pilot, you can apply directly to your local Good Things Foundation Centre, each centre will decide its own eligibility criteria.
What Centres Are Offering Free Data?
- Being Women- Ashington (Northumberland)
- Smartlyte Limited- Birmingham
- The Libertie Project- Inverness
- Kensington Community Learning Centre- Liverpool
- Starting Point Community Learning Partnership- Stockport
- ACDA Skills Training- Hounslow
- Age Concern Tyneside South- North Shields
- TrainingMatchmaker.com- Belfast
- CETMA- Llanelli, Wales
Lutz Schuler, Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Media 02, said: ” The Pandemic has escalated the UK’s data poverty crisis like never before – and with many millions of people facing digital exclusion, now is the time to come together and close the gap on digital inequality.” “Our industry has done remarkable things in recent months to keep customers connected when they needed it most, but it can’t stop there. By establishing the first ever National Databank with Good Things Foundation, coupled with a £12.5m data pledge, we want to build a lasting legacy from the Pandemic so we’re now asking our colleagues in the mobile industry to join us and help end data poverty for good.”
Helen Milner OBE, Group Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation, said: “Having sufficient data in our increasingly digital society is not a nice to have, it’s an absolute essential. If you’re not online you can’t save money on products and services, help your children to participate in home-learning, and apply for jobs.” “We’re delighted to be partnering with Virgin Media 02 to launch the National Databank, which can be thought of as a ‘food bank for data’. Now is the time for us to come together to address the issue of data poverty in the UK once and for all.”
What Other Help Is Available?
- Vodafone launched a similar scheme to tackle data poverty this summer, around one million families are expected to benefit the scheme. The Vodafone sim cards come with 20GB of data, unlimited texts and calls a month – plus training on how to use them. The Trussell Trust, which provides emergency food to poor families, will use its 1,300 food bank centres to hand out the sims.
- BT offers a basic phone and broadband package for households that claim certain benefits.
- Virgin Media also offers a cheaper deal for people on Universal Credit.
- Hyperoptic’s Fair Fibre plan, which offers benefits claimants money off broadband packages, and customers in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire could get a good deal with KCOM.
- Several firms provide special discounted rates for low income families.
If your struggling to pay your internet bills you could also switch to a package for customers on Universal Credit or other benefits.