Mobile operator Virgin Media O2 is donating an extra 15 million gigabytes (GB) of free data to the National Databank to help people stay connected as the cost of living rises.
It comes in response to research finding that nine in 10 low-income people (earning less than £25,000 per year) say they are worried about their finances.
The company said that 86% of people it surveyed said connectivity is essential to living their lives, but almost nine in 10 would be forced to give up the internet over other utilities, including food, electricity and water.
The donation means that people requiring free data to stay connected to key services - but can not afford it - can now receive 20GB of free O2 mobile data per month, up from 15GB.
The mobile operator has pledged to donate more than 61 million GB of data by the end of 2025, up from 46 million GB, to enable those in need to continue to access vital online services, such as medical appointments, online banking or job interviews and training.
The 20GB equates to 220 hours of browsing, 320,000 emails, 340 song downloads and 800 minutes of TV.
What is the National Databank?
The National Databank was founded in 2021 and works similarly to a food bank, where people in need can get mobile data, calls and texts without paying.
This is accessed via community groups across the UK who work with charity the Good Things Foundation, which founded the Databank alongside Virgin Media O2.
So far, the National Databank has given more than 50,000 SIM cards to community organisations.
Kay, who has benefited from free mobile data from the National Databank, said: “I need data to live - I need it to speak to my kids. It keeps me sane. I need it to work - without it, I couldn’t manage my job.
“Knowing that this monthly expense is taken care of is such a huge weight off my shoulders”
Virgin Media O2 says that two million households across the UK are at risk of digital exclusion because of the rising cost of living.
Lutz Schuler, Virgin Media O2 chief executive, said: “As the proud founder of the UK’s National Databank, we know how important it is for people most affected by the rise in the cost of living to have access to free mobile data so they can get online and stay in touch with loved ones, and access essential services, from virtual medical appointments, to job interviews and training.
“That’s why Virgin Media O2 is providing extra help for people in need by donating even more free data to the Good Things Foundation and the National Databank to ensure people can stay connected during the difficult months ahead.
“It’s part of our mission to upgrade the UK where we want to end data poverty for good and create a better, more connected country for everyone.”
Good Things Foundation group chief executive, Helen Milner, said: “Having enough data in our increasingly digital society is not just a nice to have, it’s an absolute essential.
“There are two million households struggling to afford internet access in the UK today, and 10 million adults lack the most basic digital skills.
“The National Databank, which can be thought of as a ‘food bank for data’, is already doing great work to bridge the digital divide.
“We’re very proud to be working together with our National Databank founding partners, Virgin Media O2, which is now upping its data pledge to give an extra 15 million GB of free data to the databank.
“Together, we can help address the issue of data poverty in the UK once and for all.”