Government

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…)

Launch of Government’s National Data Strategy

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…)

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…)

Government announces £1.3bn investment to deliver homes, infrastructure and jobs

The funding announced by MHCLG and BEIS will provide up to 45,000 homes, create up to 85,000 jobs and upgrade skills and infrastructure to help fuel a green economic recovery.

A new £2bn Green Homes Grant scheme will fund up to two-thirds of the cost of home improvements of over 600,000 homes. Over 300 successful “shovel-ready” projects in England will receive a share of the £900m Getting Building Fund to build homes and infrastructure. A further £360m investment will deliver 26,000 new homes on brownfield land and £8 million of funding will help speed up the delivery of the new homes on brownfield sites. Government is inviting bids from the Mayoral Combined Authorities for the remaining £40 million of the fund. (more…)

Open Communications – Enabling people to share data with innovative services

In Ofcom’s consultation the potential uses and benefits of Open Communications are explored and how it could best work for people and businesses. In particular, how to enable consumers and small businesses to share information about their services with third parties of their choice easily and securely. In 2019, the Government’s Smart Data Review proposed to introduce Open Communications through legislation, to stimulate innovation and promote the development of new services that improve outcomes. Responses to this consultation will help to inform Government thinking on the future development of Open Communications.

BSG held an online workshop in June with industry, Ofcom and Government to discuss initial thinking in this area. (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…)

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…)

DCMS Select Committee report ‘Misinformation in the COVID-19 Infodemic’

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…)

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.  (more…)

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.  (more…)

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.

(more…)