Author - Gulistan Ladha

UK is world leader in online safety innovation

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.

The full report can be found here.

Government guidance on traveller exemption from UK border rules

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…)

Ofcom Connected Nations Update

Ofcom’s Spring 2020 update is an interim report based on coverage and service availability information received from providers since the last Connected Nations report published in December.

On fixed broadband:

  • Full Fibre broadband availability in the UK continues to rapidly improve with over 3.5 million homes (12%) now able to access faster, more reliable full fibre services. This is an increase of over half a million in the four months to January 2020. This is a result of increased rollout from existing broadband networks and new entrants.
  • Ultrafast broadband has increased across the UK by over 700,000 properties to over 16 million homes (55%).
  • Superfast broadband continues to be rolled out across the UK, with an additional 300,000 properties, meaning over 27 million homes (95%) can now access it.
  • Decent broadband can be accessed by the vast majority of UK properties. The number of residential and commercial properties that are not able to receive a decent broadband service from a fixed line stands at 608,000 (2%). These properties may be eligible for the broadband universal service which came into place in March and gives properties unable to get a decent connection the legal right to request one.


Home broadband performance report

The performance delivered by broadband providers is holding up well during the COVID-19 lockdown period and speeds have withstood the increase in demand from home working, online learning and streaming. While being impacted by reduced staffing levels, providers have prioritised keeping the nation connected. Fixed, broadband and mobile providers have put additional measures in place to help vulnerable customers and pledged additional support to NHS workers.

The latest report is based on performance in November 2019 but Ofcom has also included measurements taken in the first and last week of March 2020 to assess the impact of COVID-19.

Click here to view Ofcom’s full report


Ofcom allows additional time for providers to implement EECC rules

Ofcom has announced that it will allow communications providers at least 12 months to implement changes required when the EECC becomes law in the UK. This may be extended for rules that will have a major impact on systems, such as switching. Ofcom is expected to publish a statement in September once Government confirms its approach to introducing EECC into UK law.

This update follows Ofcom’s consultation in December which closed in March. Ofcom recognises that coronavirus has brought significant challenges to communications providers over recent months and that their focus has been on keeping the nation connected, supporting the vulnerable, the NHS and schools.

The specific implementation deadline for each of the new rules will be published in September.

Ofcom publishes Annual Plan for 2020/21

Following a consultation earlier in the year, Ofcom has published a statement on its Annual Plan for the period April 2020 – March 2021 which has been adapted to take account of the impact of coronavirus on the sector.

In March Ofcom announced its approach to coronavirus – that it was suspending existing consultation deadlines and information requests, and putting on hold new consultations, decisions and information requests. Timings on many areas of work have therefore changed and remain fluid. An update will follow in September, with regular quarterly updates on progress against the plan. Ofcom will continue to work with Government and telecoms providers to keep the nation connected and ensure resilience across landline, broadband and mobile and the 999 and 111 services.

The strategic themes have not changed from the original consultation, but special consideration will be given to vulnerable customers during coronavirus, for example around how to keep them connected, issues relating to termination of service and unexpectedly high bills. Ofcom will also make wider efforts to combat disinformation and will expedite enforcement cases involving potentially harmful broadcast content relating to the coronavirus (such as the myths linking 5G to coronavirus).


Government launches ‘The Skills Toolkit’

A new online learning platform was launched today by Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, to help people while they are asked to stay at home.

The Skills Toolkit is made up of free online resources to help improve digital and numeracy skills to and allows furloughed employees in particular the opportunity to keep up their skills development while at home. Digital courses include tools for using email and social media more effectively at work, to creating online content developed by the University of Leeds and the Institute of Coding, to understand the Fundamentals of Digital Marketing from Google Digital Garage, as well as Open University courses. All courses are free, online and flexible, so people can work through them at their own pace.


Major telecoms providers pledge support to the NHS during the COVID crisis

In a joint statement between the major telecoms providers and Government, BT/EE, Openreach, Sky , TalkTalk, Virgin Media, O2 , Three, Vodafone, Cityfibre, Gigaclear, Tesco Mobile, giffgaff, Hyperoptic and KCOM, have committed to providing further support to the NHS and its staff during the pandemic. This is over and above the work they continue to do to keep the nation connected, including ensuring that the new emergency hospitals being built across the country have the connectivity they need and providing zero-rated access to on mobile connections.


BSG response to the senseless criminal damage of mobile phone masts and harassment of telecoms engineers

There is absolutely no credible evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus.

Police are investigating mobile phone mast fires around the UK as possible arson, following bizarre conspiracy theories. This is causing real danger and harm during a national emergency and wasting the much-needed resources of our police and fire-fighters. On top of that, fixed and mobile telecommunications engineers, designated as key workers, are being harassed by anti-5G campaigners. The telecommunications infrastructure is critical at a time when the population is being told to stay at home.

Cabinet secretary Michael Gove said the theories were “dangerous nonsense”. Professor Steve Powis, National Medical Director of NHS England, denouncing it as “the worst kind of fake news”. “I’m absolutely outraged, absolutely disgusted, that people would be taking action against the very infrastructure that we need to respond to this health emergency, it is absolute and utter rubbish.”


March Budget 2020

“Levelling up and getting Britain building”

In the first Budget since October 2018, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, announced the government’s commitment to levelling up across the UK by raising productivity and growth in all nations and regions, creating opportunity for everyone, and addressing disparities in economic and social outcomes.

In total, around £640 billion of gross capital investment will be provided for roads, railways, communications, schools, hospitals and power networks across the UK by 2024-25. The government will publish a National Infrastructure Strategy later in the spring but the Chancellor announced plans to commit £5 billion to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband in the most difficult to reach areas of the country so that all areas are able to benefit. In addition, government will commit up to £510 million, which will be more than matched by industry, to ensuring that 95% of the UK’s landmass will have high quality 4G mobile coverage by 2025. This investment will level up connectivity across the UK, particularly in rural areas.


DCMS signs £1 billion deal with mobile networks to improve coverage in rural areas

Government announced today that it has reached agreement with the four mobile networks to improve 4G mobile coverage.

As part of the government’s commitment to improve digital infrastructure in the UK, the Secretary of State for DCMS has signed a £1 billion deal with EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to extend rural coverage via the Shared Rural Network (SRN). This means that 4G will be available to 95% of the UK landmass by 2026, extending mobile coverage to 280,000 more premises and on an additional 16,000km of the UK’s roads. The government has pledged £500 million of funding to eliminate not-spots where there is currently no coverage from any operator. The four networks are committed to investing £532m to close almost all partial not-spots where there is currently only coverage from at least one operator.

Last August the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) and DCMS published proposals to reform permitted development rights to support deployment of 5G and extend 4G mobile coverage.