Government

Ofcom publications

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.

Online Nation 2020 report

The main report is accompanied by a separate summary report and includes online behaviour during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some observations: In April 2020, the reach of education, health and government sites had all grown since January and users of news sites spent more time on these and social media sites on average each day. People used a range of sources to access news about the coronavirus, with BBC services the most popular source. Internet users in the UK spent a daily average of just over 4 hours online. With the proliferation of high-performance smartphones, mobile has steadily grown its share of online revenues reaching 52% of total online revenues.

Adults’ Media Use & Attitudes report 2020

Ofcom’s latest report examines adults’ media literacy and is a reference document for industry, stakeholders and the general public. It includes data on the digitally excluded:  Over the past five years there has been no change in the incidence of adults who do not use the internet (13% offline in 2019 vs 14% in 2014). Many non-users demonstrate a lack of appetite for going online in the near future: 77% say that nothing would encourage them to go online in the next 12 months, and 61% say they don’t currently go online due to a lack of interest or need. One in five state a reason either related to cost (19%) or difficulty (‘being too complicated’) (17%) as a barrier to their going online.

Research: Internet users’ concerns about and experience of potential online harms

According to the latest research into internet users’ concerns about and experience of potential online harms, 62% of adults have had potentially harmful online experiences in the last 12 months and 81% of children aged 12-15. Social media remains the most commonly cited source of potentially harmful experiences among both adults and children.

Review of the Access to Infrastructure Regulations – Call for Evidence

Government has launched a call for evidence as part of a review of the Access to Infrastructure (ATI) Regulations 2016, which enables sharing of information about access to physical infrastructure across the utility, transport and communications sectors. It also includes the right to access that infrastructure on fair and reasonable commercial terms and conditions.

The review will assess if there are improvements that can be made to the regulations to further boost investment in infrastructure and encourage the use of passive infrastructure sharing to deploy telecoms networks. While operators are free to make their own commercial agreements on infrastructure sharing, the ATI Regulations have not been widely used in the UK to date despite the rapid increase in the rollout of gigabit broadband to meet the government’s ambitions for nationwide coverage by 2025.

It will make it easier for high-speed broadband cables to run through the electricity, gas, water and sewer networks across the UK. It could also mean strengthening broadband companies’ access to run cables along new and existing infrastructure lining the road and rail networks across the country.

Clare MacNamara, CEO said: “It is important for the Broadband Stakeholder Group that the right measures are in place to support UK fibre and gigabit rollout in order for industry to meet the target of nationwide availability by 2025. We therefore welcome government’s review of the regulations”.

The consultation ends on 4 September 2020.

Click here for the call for evidence.

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…)

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.

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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…)

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 nhs.uk on mobile connections.

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COVID-19 guidance for telecommunications infrastructure deployment in England

Government yesterday underlined the inclusion of telecoms infrastructure—fixed and mobile—as a critical sector in new government regulations and legislation in response to dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. Recognition of the vital underpinning of the telecommunications sector for the UK at this time is essential together with any measures that ensure industry can continue to provide capacity and resilience in support of homes, businesses and the public sector. The measures are set out below. (more…)

Government agrees measures with telecoms companies to support vulnerable consumers through COVID-19

BSG welcomes the conclusion of a collaborative initiative between the UK major telecoms providers, the Digital Secretary and Ofcom which targets customers in need additional support to stay connected during the current pandemic. Yesterday’s announcement sets out a number of substantial commitments to support and protect vulnerable consumers and those who may become so arising from changes in circumstances brought on by Covid-19. These measures build upon, and reinforce, the Stay Connected campaign launched last week.

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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…)

Gigabit Connectivity to New Build

Mandating the provision of fibre connectivity as standard in new build developments has been a longstanding policy priority for BSG and we responded to the DCMS consultation in December 2018. We welcome this week’s announcement that developers in England will now be required to install gigabit-capable infrastructure and, subject to a cost cap, a gigabit-capable connection. This will deliver internet speeds 200 times faster than you would need to watch an HD film on Netflix. (more…)

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.

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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.

 

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…)