Citizens Advice has urged the UK government to make broadband more affordable for people during the pandemic, after its own research found that millions are struggling to pay their bills.

The charity said that broadband was no longer a luxury and is now an “essential utility” that enables people to shop for food, complete job applications, and keep in touch with friends and family.

However, a new survey found that many are being “locked out” of key services, with 275 of 1,646 respondents admitting that they have found it difficult to pay for broadband during the last 10 months.

Alistair Cromwell, Citizens Advice acting chief executive, believes that recent measures rolled out by the government to provide free laptops and mobile data have not gone far enough.

He added: “To tackle the digital divide, it must take urgent action to ensure everyone can afford their broadband, no matter which provider they are with.”

Just three of the main broadband providers in the UK currently offer cheaper tariffs for people on benefits, and Citizens Advice wants more affordable plans to ease financial woes.

Research by telecoms regulator Ofcom found in December that around 4.7m households are struggling to pay their bills, with the average monthly costs for a landline and broadband package coming in at £37.

Citizens Advice believes that as many as 2.3 million people were not able to make payments for broadband in late 2020.

A government spokesperson said that it had worked with major providers to support vulnerable customers, but encouraged them to “go further” during the third national lockdown.