Author - Sophie James

COVID-19: New guidance on street works

Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee (HAUC) has today published Government-endorsed guidance on street works during the COVID-19 pandemic. The document has been agreed by the Department for Transport (DfT), HAUC, JAG (UK) and Streetworks UK, and is designed to provide clarity to all English Highway Authorities (HAs) on the continuation of street works, with separate advice notices expected from the Welsh and Scottish Governments. (more…)

Ofcom to take on the role as the internet content regulator

This announcement by Government follows the Online Harms White Paper consultation from 2019.

Ofcom will be given additional powers through a new legal duty of care to force companies such as Google and Facebook to remove harmful content. The Government proposes to introduce a new law for websites which would be enforced through a Code of Practice. ISPs will be expected to quickly remove illegal content linked to terrorism and child abuse and to protect children from potentially harmful material such as that which could encourage suicide and self-harm. (more…)

Telecoms Supply Chain Review

The Government has announced new plans to safeguard the UK’s telecoms network and pave way for fast, reliable and secure 5G and full fibre connectivity. This clarification is critical for a number of UK infrastructure providers who sit on the Broadband Stakeholder Group, and to inform decisions in relation to Huawei in the rollout of the 5G and full fibre, gigabit-capable networks.

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Ofcom publishes its latest step in its Fairness for Customers programme of work

In June 2019, the UK’s major broadband, mobile and pay-TV companies signed Ofcom’s new Fairness for Customers commitments which puts fairness at the heart of their businesses. The aim of Ofcom’s Fairness for Customers programme is to help ensure people are always treated fairly by their provider – whether they are signing up to a new deal, trying to fix a problem or switching to a new company. (more…)

CMA investigation into the loyalty penalty

A report published today by the CMA is a progress report setting out the work and progress that has been made over the last 12 months.

In September 2018, CMA received a super-complaint from Citizens Advice. There followed an investigation into the loyalty penalty in 5 markets: mobile phone contracts, broadband, household insurance, cash savings and mortgages. The CMA uncovered continual year on year price rises, costly exit fees from contracts, time-consuming and difficult processes to cancel contracts or switch to new providers, and auto-renewal policies that switched unsuspecting customers onto more expensive contracts, often without sufficient warning. In its response to the super-complaint, the CMA made a number of recommendations to Ofcom, the FCA and other regulators to help them better protect consumers. It also launched its own investigations into auto-renewal practices in two sectors. (more…)

ICO publishes Age Appropriate Design Code for online services

Today the ICO published its code which includes a set of 15 standards that online services should meet to protect children’s privacy. The code sets out the standards expected of those responsible for designing, developing or providing online services like apps, social media platforms, online games, educational websites and streaming services. It covers services likely to be accessed by children and which process their data.

The code will require digital services to automatically provide children with a built-in baseline of data protection whenever they download a new app, game or visit a website, and gives practical guidance on data protection safeguards that ensure online services are appropriate for use by children.

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Cross sector comparisons

The UK Regulators Network (UKRN), regulators in telecoms, water, energy and banking have partnered to compare how customers rate the biggest companies who provide services people rely on every day. The level of customer satisfaction in telecoms varies between 79% to 96%. The scorecards also capture some metrics on perceptions of value for money. Between 82% and 97% of customers in telecoms are satisfied with the value for money they receive from their supplier. Complaints across mobile, landline and broadband complaints are below 1%. (more…)

Ofcom’s proposals for stimulating greater investment in fibre broadband

Ofcom has published its first combined five-year review of Wholesale Fixed Telecoms regulation which maps out how it will regulate Openreach between April 2021 and March 2026 for both the residential and businesses connectivity markets (previously the regulator separately assessed the Wholesale Local Access Market Review of residential, and the Business Connectivity Market Review).

Ofcom’s four-point plan aims to support competitive investment in fibre networks and competition in gigabit capable services, ensuring world class broadband services are available to as many people and businesses as possible.

  1. Improving the business case for fibre investment. In more urban areas, Ofcom proposes that the wholesale price that Openreach charges retail providers for its entry-level (40 Mbit/s) superfast broadband service is capped to inflation. This follows a cut Ofcom made to this product in its 2018 review. Ofcom also proposes that Openreach can charge a small premium for regulated products if they are delivered over full fibre. Openreach’s fastest fibre services will remain free from pricing regulation to support the investment competition between network builders.
  2. Protecting customers and driving competition. Ofcom will ensure that people can still access affordable broadband by capping Openreach’s wholesale charges on its slower copper broadband services. Openreach will be restricted from being able to offer discounts that could stifle investment by its rivals.
  3. Taking rural areas into the fast lane. In rural areas where there is no prospect of multiple networks being built, Ofcom will support investment by Openreach which is the only operator with a large-scale rural network, by allowing it to recover investment costs across the wholesale prices of a wider range of services, reducing the risk of its investment. If BT provides a firm commitment to build fibre in these parts of the country, Ofcom will include these costs in its prices upfront. If not, Ofcom will only allow it to recover these costs after it lays new fibre. The UK Government is planning to invest £5bn to reach the most challenging 20% of the UK and is working closely with Ofcom on its plans for this.
  4. Closing the copper network. Ofcom plans to remove regulation on Openreach’s copper products in areas where full fibre is built to support the migration/switching of customers to the new fibre network. Ofcom will be transferring its regulation – including price protections – from copper to new fibre services.

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Ofcom’s proposed work plan for 2020-2021

Ofcom has set out its proposed workplan for the next financial year. The consultation closes on 25th February 2020.

Strategic priorities:

  • Better broadband and mobile – support ongoing investment in faster broadband and better mobile coverage across the country.
  • Fairness for customers – ensure broadband, phone and TV customers, particularly vulnerable people, are treated fairly.
  • Support UK broadcasting – support the sector (including public service broadcasting) in delivering continued benefits to all UK audiences.
  • Online communications – in conjunction with Government, protect consumers from harmful content online and ensure communications services online work for consumers.
  • Enable strong, secure networks – build a centre of excellence for security and resilience, work with industry to protect networks against outages and cyber-attacks, lead on initiatives to close gaps in best practice.

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Ofcom: Connected Nations 2019 Report

Ofcom’s 2019 Connected Nations report, released today, sets out this year’s developments in broadband and mobile services, availability and coverage.

Leading the data is the nearly three million UK homes that can now access full-fibre broadband – 10% of all homes – and 1.5 million more than last year.

Overall superfast broadband coverage is now around 95%, which means that the vast majority of homes can access download speeds of at least 30 Mbit/s. Take-up of superfast packages has increased by 20% in twelve months, but Ofcom suggests millions more could get faster internet by upgrading. (more…)

The Queen’s Speech 2019

Following last week’s electoral success for the Conservative party, the PM’s legislative agenda for broadband and telecoms was set out in the Queen’s speech yesterday (19 December 2019).

The text largely reflects the previously announced Government policy plans detailed in the Queen’s speech in October 2019. It outlines legislation required to accelerate the delivery of gigabit-capable broadband nationwide “as soon as possible” previously defined by the now re-instated, and soon to be ennobled, Secretary of State, Nicky Morgan, by the end of 2025. (more…)

Ofcom consultation: Fair treatment and easier switching for broadband and mobile customers

Proposals to implement the new European Electronic Communications Code 

Ofcom has published a consultation on a range of measures protect broadband, mobile, pay TV and landline phone customers and help ensure they get a fair deal. The proposals respond to changes to the European regulatory framework. The Government consulted earlier this year on how to reflect these changes in UK law. Responses are due by 3 March 2020. Ofcom plans to publish a statement in Q1 2020/21.

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Connectivity

Consultation: Measures to Support Openreach Trials

As part of Openreach’s plan to support the migration of telephone services onto IP technology – the move to All-IP – as well as upgrade its access network to full-fibre, the organization has applied to Ofcom for several rule waivers. Ofcom has opened a consultation that will run until 06 January 2020.

The plan is to carry out two trials. In Salisbury, Openreach will test the processes for migrating customers to full-fibre services and, ultimately, withdrawing legacy copper-based services. The Mildenhall trial will test the procedure for withdrawing Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) and migrating customers to replacement services.

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Ofcom consultation on proposed changes to quality of service regulation on Openreach

Ofcom is seeking comments on its proposed changes to certain regulations that require Openreach to install broadband connections within a set period of time. Openreach has developed a ‘Bulk Grouping provision capability’ in coordination with its wholesale customers that will allow providers to upgrade their standard broadband customers to superfast and ultrafast products in batches. (more…)