The Prime Minister and Digital Secretary met with the CEOs of the major broadband organisations today and praised the industry for creating more than 22,000 jobs over the last year. They welcomed the commitment from the organisations to help the nation build back better from the pandemic with gigabit broadband rollout, and underlined the government’s support to help industry’s efforts to connect as many homes and businesses as possible by 2025. The government has increased its forecast and new figures show rollout will reach 60 per cent by the end of 2021 (up from 50 per cent), putting the UK on track to be among the fastest build rates in Europe. (more…)
Customers struggling to pay their phone or broadband bill during the Covid-19 pandemic are being asked to contact their provider to see how they can help. As we see a cautious and very gradual lifting of lockdown measures and extended furlough, people are more dependant than ever on their telecoms service. As we have reported many times, industry initiatives are already in place. Ofcom recently wrote to providers asking them to revisit the support they have available and calling for further measures in line with the vulnerability guide.
Last year Ofcom announced that the 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz 5G Auction would begin this month (to improve coverage and speed of 5G mobile broadband networks). There was a pause in the process due to the current COVID-19 lockdown and it has now been confirmed the start of the auction will be in March 2021. Ofcom will continue to monitor the situation in the meantime.
Earlier this month Ofcom announced the four bidders as EE Limited, Hutchison 3G UK Limited, Telefónica UK Limited and Vodafone Limited. The regulations for the auction came into force in November 2020.
According to a report by Assembly Research, the value of the initiatives put in place by the UK telecoms sector amounts to some £940 million, with many likely to remain in place until things return to normal, whatever that may be. Of more than 50 initiatives tracked by Assembly, 20 have directly addressed the needs of the most vulnerable (worth £340m), 19 have been made available to all customers (£250m), six are targeted at key healthcare workers (£220m), and four have aimed to help small and medium-sized businesses recover (£130m). Similar initiatives have been launched around the world which Assembly has been tracking on a country-by-country basis since the start of the pandemic.
Since March 2020 telecoms providers and broadcasters have implemented measures to keep the UK connected. This includes additional help for vulnerable customers, NHS staff, care homes and hospitals. They have offered discounted broadband services or lifted the data caps, given free data packages on mobile, zero-rated websites, WiFi vouchers, paused charges for sports and other channels, and standalone education resources. (more…)
Now that we have entered Lockdown 2, BEIS has issued updated guidance on the following:
- New national restrictions https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november
- Working safely https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/updates
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden announced Government’s National Data Strategy to drive growth, boost innovation, create new jobs and improve public services. Government will develop a clear policy framework to determine what interventions are needed to unlock the value of data across the economy and help drive the recovery from Covid-19. It proposes an overhaul in the use of data across the public sector and a programme of work will be launched that will transform the way data is managed, used, shared internally within government, and with wider public sectors organisations. (more…)
DCMS and MCHLG updated valuation guidance to facilitate siting of digital infrastructure
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman and Local Government Minister Simon Clarke have today written to local authorities setting out how they can help boost gigabit broadband rollout and 5G mobile coverage, pointing to new government advice on land access and valuations. The advice aims for quicker deals that grant access for new digital infrastructure, such as 5G masts and full fibre broadband cabinets on public land, and with reasonable rents attached.
While councils are obliged to get ‘best value’ when agreeing land access agreements, non-monetary benefits such as enhanced connectivity for residents to work from home and SMEs to trade online, should be taken into account, as highlighted in our report ‘Impact at a local level of full-fibre and 5G investments’. (more…)
Ofcom – Changes to WiFi, EECC update, Guidance for Vulnerable Customers and Call for Evidence on Emerging Technologies
Ofcom is making airwaves in the lower 6 GHz band available for WiFi services without the need for a licence, following a consultation earlier this year. The technical requirements for WiFi routers are also being amended to ease congestion and help meet the growing demand for wireless services now and in the future.
A further consultation on revised proposals to implement the new EECC has been launched, ahead of the final decisions due to be published in the autumn. These are (i) changes to the scope of the rules on annual best tariff information and (ii) revised definitions for ‘microenterprise’, ‘small enterprise’ customers and not-for-profit organisations. Deadline is 11 September. (more…)
The Online Harms White Paper published in April 2019 proposed a duty of care on tech companies and an independent Online Harms Regulator. The DCMS Select Committee opened an inquiry in March this year calling for evidence to help understand the causes and impact of COVID-19 and how it can be tackled.
On 16 July, the Committee published a report ‘Misinformation in the COVID-19 Infodemic’ which sets out some recommendations. On 5G specifically, the report mentions written evidence from BT stated that between 23 March and 23 April there were 30 separate attempts of sabotage on the UK’s digital infrastructure and around 80 attacks across sites operated by all four mobile networks, with 19 occurring near critical infrastructure such as fire, police and ambulance stations. EE personnel and subcontractors faced 70 separate incidents, including threats to kill and vehicles driven directly at staff. (more…)
Consultation: Copper retirement – process for determining when copper regulation can be removed (supplementary consultation to the WFTMR)
The consultation proposes to delay decisions about Openreach’s copper retirement process until after Ofcom has determined the outcome of the WFTMR. Justification is that Openreach’s fibre roll-out is still in its early stages and Ofcom would prefer to wait for more details on the Salisbury and Mildenhall trials. The consultation period ends on 3 September and the outcome of the WFTMR is due to be published in Q4 2020/21. (more…)
In the Online Harms White Paper government set out a programme of action. As part of this DCMS has published a study ‘Safer technology, safer users: The UK as a world leader in Safety Tech’ which provides an overview of the UK’s Safety Technology sector. It highlights some of the UK’s most innovative businesses focused on tackling online harms through a range of technical solutions.
The report sets out government’s proposed measures to boost the Safety Tech sector in the UK, as well as measures to help users manage their own safety online and the wide range of Safety Tech products and services that already help make online platforms safer.
Government has published guidance explaining exemptions from new UK border rules being introduced on 8 June.
Passengers arriving into the UK will be required to self-isolate for 14 days to minimise the risk of a second wave. They will also be required to provide address and contact details to allow tracing and spot checks. Penalties will be introduced for those that break these mandatory measures, of up to £1,000, and infringements could result in criminal prosecutions. Those that refuse to comply could be refused entry to the UK.
There is a list of exemptions, including IT and telecommunications professionals who are needed to provide an essential or emergency response to threats and incidents relating to the security of any network and systems, including work for the BBC’s broadcasting transmission network and services. They will still need to follow the same rules as people who live in the UK, even if exempt from self-isolating for 14 days. (more…)