Spark has announced it is boosting the data allocation for Skinny Jump, its not-for-profit wireless broadband service designed to help those who might otherwise struggle to get online.
The company said the move was intended to help keep digitally excluded households across Aotearoa connected as data usage and cost-of-living pressures continue to rise.
"While Kiwis across the country are feeling the squeeze of rising inflation, for some households these extra costs could mean having to choose between buying food to feed the family or paying the power bill to keep warm in winter," Spark CEO Jolie Hodson said.
"Unfortunately, for many of these households having an internet connection at home can be a luxury they just can't afford. But as our world has dramatically shifted online over the last few years of COVID, this puts Kiwis on the wrong side of the digital divide at a significant disadvantage."
Not being able to get online was no longer just an inconvenience, Hodson said, it meant missing out on key services such as online banking and working remotely. It could even cause kids to fall behind at school.
"With our workforce becoming increasingly digital, this puts these individuals at risk of falling even further behind their peers," she said.
From Wednesday, 35GB of wireless data from Skinny Jump will cost just $5, with 15GB of data provided on the first of each month for free.
Customers can purchase up to six top-ups per month, meaning a total of 225GB of data for just $30.
New subscribers get a free wireless broadband modem pre-loaded with 35GB of data.
Jump was first launched in 2016 for households with school-aged children, but eligibility criteria was extended in March 2020 just as Aotearoa entered its first COVID-19 lockdown.
According to the Skinny website, those with families with children, job seekers, seniors, people with disabilities, refugees and migrant communities and those in social housing are likely to be eligible.
In 2020 just 4000 households used Skinny Jump, but after two years of the pandemic that number has jumped to over 22,000 all over New Zealand.
Jump isn't available online or in-store as it's a subsidised broadband product for communities in need, accessed via community partners including local libraries and community centres.
"We know that internet access isn't a silver bullet that's going to solve digital equity on its own," Hodson continued.
"But for the one in five Kiwis who may be facing digital exclusion, it gets them to the starting line. Ultimately, having affordable access means more Kiwis have an opportunity to participate in the digital world."