Virgin Media O2 brings ‘data foodbank’ to 10 high street stores across UK to boost internet access

The scheme aims to boost internet access for low-income households

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Virgin Media O2 is to offer access to its national mobile “data foodbank” from stores across the UK for the first time.

The company has confirmed that 10 of its O2 high street shops will offer direct access to the National Databank, with those who are eligible to receive 20GB of free O2 mobile data per month for up to six months.

The scheme is aimed at people aged 18 and over who come from low-income households and struggle to get access to a reliable internet connection for vital services, such as job searches, interviews, training and education.

The network operator said the following O2 stores are taking part in the initial pilot:

  • Ballymena
  • Broadstairs (Thanet Westwood Cross)
  • Colchester
  • Hastings
  • Hull (Jameson Street)
  • Norwich
  • Newport
  • Perth
  • Plymouth
  • Stockton-on-Tees (Teesside Retail Park)

The company said the areas chosen included communities where people are most likely to be digitally excluded, or places where people have not been able to access the databank before.

The scheme is aimed at people aged 18 and over who come from low-income households (Photo: Getty Images)The scheme is aimed at people aged 18 and over who come from low-income households (Photo: Getty Images)
The scheme is aimed at people aged 18 and over who come from low-income households (Photo: Getty Images)

Gareth Turpin, Virgin Media O2 chief commercial officer, said. “We’re stepping up our support during the cost-of-living crisis to help even more people stay connected this Christmas.

“It’s now going to be easier than ever for those in need to access the National Databank directly on the high street via our O2 stores, so they can get online and connect to essential services – from medical appointments to applying for jobs.”

Free data via Christmas sim cards

The operator has also announced it is providing an extra one million GB of free data via special Christmas sim cards this year. The move aims to help those lacking connectivity to stay in touch with their friends and family during the festive period.

Helen Milner, group chief executive of the Good Things Foundation, which co-founded the National Databank with Virgin Media O2, said: “Having sufficient data in our increasingly digital society is not (just) a nice thing 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.

“With two million households struggling to afford internet access in the UK today – and 10 million adults lacking the most basic digital skills, everyone needs to do even more to build a movement for digital inclusion that leaves no-one behind. This underpins our 2022-2025 strategy, making sure we go further to fix the digital divide for good.

“This extra support is a perfect example of industry innovation making a huge difference to people’s lives, and will mean more practical help is available for those on low incomes to get online and access the endless benefits of digital connectivity.”

It comes after Virgin Media O2 said it is upgrading millions of customers to faster broadband speeds completely free of charge. Customers already on the M100 or M200 will get an upgrade at no extra cost as packages will be upgraded to M125 and M250.

The upgrade will see Virgin Media’s M100 service benefit from a 22% uplift in average download speeds (from 108Mbps to 132Mbps), with upload speeds also increasing from 10Mbps to 20Mbps. M200 services will see a 24% increase in average download speeds (from 213Mbps to 264Mbps) with upload speeds rising from 20Mbps to 25Mbps.

It means that customers on M125 could download a 4K film in just 15 minutes compared to it previously taking around 19 minutes, while those on M250 will see download speeds reduced from just over nine minutes to seven minutes.

The offer marks the latest initiative from Virgin Media O2 in response to the cost-of-living crisis to give households a speed boost when connectivity is essential.

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