HARD-UP Brits can get free mobile data from Virgin Media O2 to ensure they stay connected this Christmas.
The telecoms giant provides free sims and mobile data, as well as talk minutes and texts, to people struggling to get online through the National Data Bank.
It’s been compared to a food bank but with internet connectivity data – but the sign-up process can be complicated.
But Virgin Media O2 will help more people who need free mobile data by piloting the National Data Bank for the first time on the High Street through 10 O2 stores.
Struggling Brits used to search their local Good Things Foundation affiliate community center for the free data.
To simplify the process, struggling Brits can now access the National Data Bank directly on the high street.
Eligible customers who visit any of the 10 O2 stores can get 20GB of free O2 data per month for up to six months.
This is enough for around 220 hours of internet browsing per month.
Virgin Media O2 has said that participating O2 stores are in towns and cities where the free data will help those most in need.
This includes communities where people are most likely to be digitally excluded.
Struggling Brits will be able to grab the free data at the following O2 stores:
- Broadstairs (Thanet Westwood Cross)
- Hull (James Street)
- Stockton-on-Tees (Teesside Retail Park)
Those who are eligible can get support by going to one of the participating stores and asking an O2 employee, who is trained to use the National Databank platform, to use a 20GB data voucher.
Gareth Turpin, chief commercial executive at Virgin Media O2, said: “We’re stepping up our support during the cost of living crisis to help more people stay connected this Christmas.
“It will now be easier than ever for those who need to access the National Data Bank directly on the High Street through our O2 stores, so they can go online and connect to essential services – from medical appointments to into jobs.”
Do I qualify for the free data?
To be eligible for the data boost, you must be at least 18 years old and come from a low-income family.
You must also qualify in one or more of the following statements:
- There is no or insufficient access to the internet at home
- And/or there is no internet access or insufficient internet access while you are away
- And/or they can’t afford their monthly contract or top up
How does it work?
Staff and volunteers at selected O2 stores or online centers in the Good Things Foundation network assess the needs of the people they could support.
They then use the Data Bank to find sims and then share them.
So to access the free data you have to get support from an online center first.
You can find details of your nearest online center here.
What is given out will vary. A decision will be made based on your financial situation and how much data is available.
Support is also provided for those struggling to use the internet, and tools are available to help build confidence and basic IT skills.
Tackling data poverty in the UK
The database was first piloted with Virgin Media O2, and has now been rolled out nationally.
In January 2022 the program was extended with mobile internet data from Vodafone.
The Good Things Foundation is now calling on the rest of the UK’s mobile networks to join the National Data Bank to “end data poverty for good”.
The surge in data will be welcomed as the cost of living crisis continues to affect millions across the country – with many facing increasing levels of hardship.