HARD-UP Brits can get free mobile data from Virgin Media O2 to ensure they stay connected this Christmas.
The telecoms giant already provides free SIMs and mobile data, as well as talk minutes and texts, to people struggling to get online through the National Databank.
It’s like a food bank but for internet connectivity data – but the sign-up process can be complicated.
But Virgin Media O2 will now help more people who need free mobile data by piloting the National Databank for the first time on the high street through 10 O2 stores.
Struggling Brits used to have to search for their local Good Things Foundation’s affiliated community center to get the free data.
To simplify the process, struggling Brits can now access the National Databank 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 said the 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 can get free data at the following O2 stores:
- Broadstairs (Thanet Westwood Cross)
- Hull (Jameson Street)
- Stockton-on-Tees (Teesside Retail Park)
Those 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’s platform, for a 20 GB data voucher.
Gareth Turpin, head of business at Virgin Media O2, said: “We are stepping up our support during the cost-of-living crisis to help even more people stay connected this Christmas.
“It will now be easier than ever for those who need to access the National Databank directly on the high street through our O2 stores, so they can get online and connect to essential services – from medical appointments to applying for jobs.”
Do I qualify for the free data?
To be eligible for the data boost, you need to be at least 18 years old and must come from a low-income household.
You also have to qualify in one or more of the following statements:
- Has no access or insufficient access to the Internet at home
- and/or has no or insufficient access to the Internet when away from home
- and/or cannot afford their existing monthly contract or top up
How does it work?
Staff and volunteers at selected O2 stores or online centers in the Good Things Foundation’s network assess the needs of people they could support.
They then use the data bank to obtain sims and then share it.
So to access the free data you must first get support from an online center.
You can find details of your nearest online center here.
The amount given will vary. It will be decided based on your financial situation and how much data is available.
Support is also given to those struggling to use the internet, with tools to help increase confidence and basic IT skills.
Tackling data poverty in the UK
The databank was first piloted with Virgin Media O2, and is now being rolled out nationally.
In January 2022, the program expanded 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 Databank, to “end data poverty for good”.
The data boost will be welcome as the cost of living crisis continues to bite millions across the country – with many facing increasing levels of hardship.