How much is broadband for pensioners?

Dan Howdle | November 10th, 2023

Older man on device

Broadband deals are available to anyone at any age. You can take your pick whether you're 19 or 90. However, there is quite a lot to say when it comes to broadband packages that are particularly suited to older customers. There are social tariffs for people who don't work for example, and some broadband packages that are simpler to get along with day to day than others.

Now, we know there are plenty of older people that are extremely tech savvy, and we would be horrified if anyone felt we were talking down to them because of their age. But also, there are a lot of retired folk who didn't grow up with this technology as part of their lives, now have the need for broadband, and are unsure of the best way to go about it. And this is why we've decided the best approach here is an FAQ. Let's get started.

Do pensioners get cheaper broadband?

The answer to this question is not as simple as a yes or no because it depends specifically what you're asking about: So-called 'social tariffs' (yes, but only kind of since some social tariffs aren't much or any cheaper than regular broadband deals), or broadband deals in general (absolutely no).

Most broadband deals are fine for older people

Despite the existence of social tariffs, which offer specific speeds and somewhat lower pricing to specific pensioners who claim Pension Credit, may social tariffs aren't much or any cheaper than you might be able to get if you use a high-quality broadband comparison, which will show you all current deals available where you live.

Do bear this in mind when looking at social tariffs. It pays to know how they compare with what's being offered more broadly.

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Not all pensioners qualify for social tariffs

Many providers do offer discounts via what's known as a social tariff. A social tariff is not only for pensioners, but for anyone claiming specific sorts of benefit. And it's not for all pensioners either. You'll need to be both a pensioners and claiming Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit) in order to qualify. In other words, you need to not only be of pensionable age, you also need to meet the criteria for a very low income household.

Social tariffs can be taken up if you are claiming any of the following types of benefit:

  • Universal Credit (all claimants)
  • Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit)
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support

If you claim one or more of these benefits, you are eligible for a social tariff broadband package. The only thing you will need in order to sign up to one (beyond your name, address and other details any broadband provider requires of its customers) is your national insurance number. Once provided it will be used to check that you qualify. For a full breakdown of providers offering social tariffs, refer to the next section.

Which providers offer social tariffs for pensioners?

Either through word of mouth or via a quick Google search it'd be easy to get the idea that BT is the only provider offering a social broadband tariff. That's because no provider includes its social tariff offering among its other broadband deals on its website. We wouldn't want to say providers tend to hide their social tariffs, but we're going to anyway: They hide them. Quite often the only way to find them is to Google the provider and the term 'social tariff', and even then they can be hard to find.

So of course they aren't going to find it at all annoying that we've rounded up every social tariff currently available in the UK:

Package Price Average speed Where it's available
4th Utility Social Tariff £13.99p/m 30Mbps England
BT Home Essentials £15p/m Around 36Mbps UK
BT Home Essentials 2 £20p/m Around 67Mbps UK
Community Fibre Essential £12.50p/m 35Mbps England (London)
Connect Fibre Basic Essentials £20p/m 50Mbps England (Cambridgeshire, Essex, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, and Derbyshire)
Country Connect Social Tariff £15p/m 50Mbps Wales (Newport)
County Broadband Essential Broadband Tariff £15p/m 15Mbps England (East of England)
EE Basics £12p/m Up to 25Mbps UK
G.Network Essential Fibre Broadband £15p/m 50Mbps England (London)
Grayshott Gigabit Connect £19p/m 100Mbps England
Hey!Broadband Everyday Fibre £16p/m 100Mbps England (South East England)
Hyperoptic Fair Fibre 50 £15p/m 50Mbps England, Scotland, Wales
Hyperoptic Fair Fibre 150 £20p/m 150Mbps England, Scotland, Wales
KCOM Full Fibre Flex £14.99p/m 30Mbps England (Hull)
Lightning Fibre Social Tariff £15p/m 50Mbps England (East Sussex and Kent)
Lothian Broadband Social Tariff £19.99p/m 100Mbps Scotland (Lothian)
NOW Broadband Basics £20p/m 36Mbps UK
Quickline Social Tariff £16.50p/m 100Mbps England (Yorkshire and Lincolnshire)
RunFibre social tariff £20p/m 100Mbps England (South Gloucestershire)
Shell Essentials Fast Broadband £15p/m 11Mbps UK
Shell Essentials Fibre Broadband £20p/m 38Mbps UK
Sky Broadband Basics £20p/m 36Mbps UK
SMARTY Social Tariff £12p/m 5G where available UK
Truespeed Basic £20p/m 30Mbps England (South West)
Virgin Media Essential Broadband £12.50p/m 15Mbps UK
Virgin Media Essential Broadband Plus £20p/m 54Mbps UK
Vodafone Fibre 1 Essentials £12p/m 38Mbps UK
Vodafone Fibre 2 Essentials £20p/m 73Mbps UK
VOXI For Now £10p/m 5G where available UK
Wildanet Helping Hand Social Tariff £20p/m 30-100Mbps England (Cornwall and Devon)
WightFibre Essential Broadband £16.50p/m 100Mbps England (Isle of Wight)
YouFibre Social Tariff £15p/m 50Mbps UK (various locations)

Prices correct at time of writing, but may vary over time

Notice that many of these providers are small, local ones which is why we've included the area in which they're available as a guide. In order to find one of these social tariffs we recommend you Google the name of the provider and the package in question. As previously mention almost none of these providers list their social tariffs on their main broadband deals pages. They aren't offering them out of the kindness of their hearts, they're offering them because they are prompted to do so by Ofcom and by the government.

To find out which providers are available where you live, you can use our postcode checker, but bear in mind, some small local providers aren't included due to their inability to provide us up to date postcode availability information. And here are some of the most popular broadband deals available right now:

Compare broadband deals

How much is BT broadband for pensioners?

This is a very common question because there's a broad perception that BT is the only provider doing its duty in offering social tariffs to pensioners (and other benefits claimants). The reality is quite different of course. Just take a look at the table above for more on that. But we believe the perception comes from the fact that BT…

  • Is regarded as the default UK provider: And the older you are the more likely it is you're going to have this perception. The reality is that although BT's subsidiary Openreach looks after the network used by most UK providers, BT is to all intents and purposes just another provider among many
  • Is the only provider to offer a solo, discounted landline: BT Basic is a landline-only package that requires the same criteria to qualify as the social tariffs above, and comes in at just £5.10 per month, and includes £1.50 in call credit. BT Basic is often conflated with social tariff broadband packages, but it is a separate offering

Here is a list of BT Broadband packages showing how the full line-up compares to BT Home Essentials in terms of speed and pricing:

Package Broadband speed Landline Prices from
BT Broadband Essentials 36Mbps Optional +£5.10p/m for BT Basic £15p/m
BT Broadband Essentials 2 67Mbps Optional +£5.10p/m for BT Basic £20p/m
BT Fibre Essential 36Mbps Optional £27.99p/m
BT Fibre 1 50Mbps Optional £32.99p/m
BT Fibre 2 67Mbps Optional £35.99p/m
BT Full Fibre 100 150Mbps Optional £35.99p/m
BT Full Fibre 500 500Mbps Optional £44.99p/m
BT Full Fibre 900 900Mbps Optional £49.99p/m

Prices correct at time of writing, but may vary over time

Here are our most popular BT Broadband packages right now:

Compare BT Broadband

If you don't qualify as a pensioner for a BT Home Essential package, as you can see from the table, the somewhat confusingly titled 'BT Essential' isn't all that far off price-wise.

Note that you can only get the BT Basic home phone package added on if you already qualify for the BT Home Essentials packages. You can see the detailed qualification criteria near the top of this page where we explain social tariffs.

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Can pensioners get free broadband?

No, there are not schemes either via provider, government or both that provide free broadband to pensioners no matter what their circumstances might happen to be. However, there are a few sneaky ways that come to mind that might allow any person – pensioner or not – to access the internet for nothing. None of these ideas is ideal, and none constitute free home broadband without various barriers, but you may find these ideas helpful nonetheless.

  • Use mobile data: If you are already subscribed to a mobile tariff, most smartphones offer a 'tethering' feature that allows your phone to operate as a broadband router to other devices. Even if you don't think your data allowance will be enough to provide data to other devices, upping your data limit is likely less expensive than a monthly broadband deal
  • Use public wifi: You'll have to leave your house for this, but public libraries, cafes, pubs, restaurants, supermarkets and shopping centres are among the many locations that offer free internet access to their patrons
  • Share with a neighbour: If you're in a terrace, flat or semi-detached house, you can ask your neighbour if they are willing to share their wifi connection with you if you pay a portion of their bill. Both neighbours will save money here

Conclusion

Here's the thing. Most pensioners won't be able to get cheaper broadband because the qualifying criteria for these so-called social tariffs forbids it. You have to be both retired and your household needs to be receiving the ultra-low income required to claim Pension Credit.

For most older, retired people, plumping for a regular broadband package is going to be the best and only option. And don't let anyone tell you there are some packages more suited to older customers than others. That's hogwash. Once you're set up – something your provider will do 90% of – most broadband packages operate in the same way.

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See also