TELEPHONE and broadband providers have given coronavirus commitments to ensure the elderly and vulnerable can stay in touch with family and friends.

However, there are calls to go further with a "cast-iron guarantee" not to cut people off from the outside world during the lockdown.

Companies have committed to working with customers who find it difficult to pay their bills due to Covid-19.

All providers will remove all data allowance caps on fixed broadband services.

They also agreed to offer some generous mobile and landline packages.

And a commitment was given to ensure that vulnerable customers and those self-isolating receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs cannot be carried out.

That is according to local MP John Nicolson, who had written to the secretary of state for the department for digital, culture, media and sport as well as to Ofcom, calling on companies to protect and support customers during the current crisis.

The Ochil and South Perthshire representative said: “Being able to keep in touch with family and friends is, for some, a lifeline with charities such as Age Scotland warning of the impact of isolation on mental health, particularly of elderly people, who are already far more likely to suffer from loneliness.

"For that reason, I must give credit to broadband and telephone providers, who have listened and acted upon the calls to protect our vulnerable and elderly by taking steps to ensure that people are able to stay socially connected in the absence of face-to-face interaction."

However, the Advertiser has heard of cases where local people have already been cut-off after failing to pay their bills.

Indeed, just last week Shumela Ahmed from the Resilience Learning Partnership, who kick-started a craft box initiative for local young people, has highlighted that very problem.

Shumela told the Advertiser earlier: "I met a woman yesterday who had lost her job at the beginning of the week and her partner's lost his job – their [internet access] has just been cut off.

"This family were all working before the lockdown; they have two young children and they are just in absolute dire straits now."

Mr Nicolson added: "I would, however, like to see them [providers] go further.

“For example by providing a cast-iron guarantee not to cut off any customer’s phone or broadband lines during the pandemic.

“Such concrete measures would safeguard children’s only route to education and some people’s only means of being able to continue to work and earn in these challenging times.”