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Virgin Media O2 brings ‘data foodbank’ to the high street to boost access

Virgin Media O2 is to offer access to national mobile “data foodbank” from inside some of its high street stores for the first time.

The company has confirmed that 10 O2 stores across the UK will offer direct access to the National Databank for those eligible, and they will be able to receive 20GB of free O2 mobile data a 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, including job searches, interviews, training and education.

The network operator said the stores taking part in the initial pilot were: Ballymena; Broadstairs (Thanet Westwood Cross); Colchester; Hastings; Hull (Jameson Street); Norwich; Newport; Perth; Plymouth; and 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.

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

He added: “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.”

The operator has also announced it is providing an extra one million GB of free data via special Christmas sim cards 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.”