Author - Sophie James

Local councils boost funding for Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme for rural areas


The announcement today builds on the earlier government update, setting out that a further 250,000 English homes and businesses are now eligible for boosted funding from 17 English councils for the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.

More than £22 million of additional funding has been provided by local councils to top-up the values of the vouchers in their areas. The Scheme targets areas where the cost of building new gigabit broadband infrastructure is likely to be too high for commercial operators to cover alone. Since May 2019, vouchers worth up to £3,500 for small and medium sized businesses and up to £1,500 for residential premises have been available to cover these costs in rural areas across the UK.  (more…)

Government guidance to drive 5G and fibre deployment

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 customer service updates

New research published by Ofcom highlights which phone and broadband companies are setting the industry standard for good customer service in the UK.

Sharing the data, based on company performance up to January 2020, therefore before the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, Ofcom’s fourth annual Comparing Customer Service report shows that overall, 85% of broadband customers say they are satisfied with their service. Specifically, the report looks at how each of the major telecoms providers performed in 2019 on measures including customer complaints received, value for money and overall customer satisfaction. (more…)

Ofcom confirms plans for spectrum auction in January 2021

The UK regulator has confirmed plans to auction important airwaves to help improve mobile broadband and support the rollout of 5G, announcing it will release more airwaves, with bidding set to start in January 2021.

The auction will increase the total amount of spectrum available for mobile in the UK by nearly a fifth (18%) – helping improve mobile services and give people better access to 5G. (more…)

BDUK vouchers and 5G testbeds updates

BDUK pilots a new consumer-led approach for Rural Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme 

BDUK has announced a new website to enable a consumer-led approach to make it clearer to residents and small businesses how they can access the Rural Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme. Currently, the Scheme is supplier-led. This means suppliers request the voucher on behalf of their customers. The value of the voucher contributes to the build cost of installing a gigabit-capable connection at the customer’s premises.

Gigabit broadband vouchers are a one-off contribution to homes and small to medium-sized businesses that want to install a faster, more reliable connection over gigabit-capable infrastructure in group projects. Organised by Building Digital UK (BDUK) and funded by DCMS, the programme is tasked with delivering broadband networks to the nation.

The website now enables individuals or communities to register their interest in getting a voucher, makes this visible for suppliers and enables them to express interest in providing a service. Programme Director Justin Leese stated that: “So, whilst remaining supplier agnostic we essentially walk the customers up one side of the hill, the suppliers up the other side and let them make their own introductions at the top!” via LinkedIn. The Broadband Upgrade Fund is a pilot campaign available to rural premises in Cornwall, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Cumbria and Northumberland.  (more…)

BSG report – Moving to a fibre-enabled UK: International experiences on barriers to gigabit adoption

Moving to a fibre-enabled UK:
International experiences on barriers to gigabit adoption

 The Broadband Stakeholder Group publishes report by WIK-Consult on international learnings on barriers to UK fibre and gigabit adoption

  • Supporting take-up is key to achieving the Government’s ambitions for accelerated deployment of gigabit-capable networks and will be integral to post-COVID-19 economic plans.
  • WIK  analysis of experiences in  France, Italy, Germany and Sweden on their fibre adoption experience reflect the variable factors that drive take-up of gigabit services.
  • Learnings for UK industry, policy makers and regulators are set out in four recommendations. These include an emphasis on improving consumer awareness and support for business adoption.

The  Broadband Stakeholder Group, the UK Government’s advisory group on broadband, has published a report by WIK-Consult on barriers to fibre adoption by home and business users. The report examines the experiences of France, Italy, Germany and Sweden in driving gigabit adoption and provides lessons for the UK broadband industry, Government and Ofcom as the nation recalibrates as a consequence of COVID-19. (more…)

Broadband-enabled BBC “Bitesize Daily” to help deliver remote learning across the UK

The last month has shown more than ever the importance of digital connectivity to all our lives. Despite some initial concerns in the media, the UK’s broadband and mobile networks have been able to comfortably accommodate traffic increases with existing capacity. There have inevitably been peaks in demand, but we are now seeing a general plateau pattern across the UK and Europe.

The UK’s public service broadcasters (PSBs) have seen increases in demand too. During the week 23-29 March, the BBC reported a record-breaking 198% increase in unique visitors to its BBC Bitesize website (4.8m, beating a previous record of 3.3m). Its children’s entertainment channels were also in high demand: with a 94% increase in requests for CBBC (10.6m). The last few weeks have seen record numbers of people using BBC Sounds too, more than 3.5 million each week, with listeners turning to live radio as well as on demand content.

Today – ordinarily the start of the summer term for most children and teachers now living in exclusively online classrooms – marks the launch by the BBC of a new and extensive educational initiative. The aim is to help ensure that every child in the UK has the opportunity continue to follow the appropriate core parts of their nation’s school curriculum during COVID-19. (more…)

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.

(more…)

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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