News

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.

As part of over £1 billion that the government has already committed to next generation digital infrastructure, the Budget announced the next seven areas that have successfully bid for funding from the third wave of the Local Full Fibre Networks Challenge Fund: North of Tyne (£12 million), South Wales (£12 million), Tay Cities (£6.7 million), Pembrokeshire (£4 million), Plymouth (£3 million), Essex and Hertfordshire (£2.1 million) and East Riding of Yorkshire (£1 million).

To ensure that the UK remains a dynamic and competitive regulatory environment, the government is launching a Reforming Regulation Initiative to collect ideas for regulatory reform, as well as implementing the recommendations of the Furman Review of digital competition.

The UK’s success in the global economy will be rooted in innovation and cutting-edge technology and government plans to increase public R&D investment to £22 billion per year by 2024-25.

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…)

Monthly update from the Broadband Stakeholder Group

The Broadband Stakeholder Group has published its latest monthly newsletter “Connectivity sets the agenda.”

The bulletin outlined key updates in industry-related regulation and policy from January 2020 – including the reintroduction into the parliamentary timetable of the Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill – and the much-anticipated conclusion to the Telecom Supply Chain Review. You can read more about the review in detail via our news post.

Our newsletter also provided an overview of developments in consumer protection and child protection regulation, and what lies ahead following the UK’s exit from the European Union on 31 January 2020. BSG and techUK are promoting the interests of the digital infrastructure industry in a number of other recommendations to Government which include improved access for UK companies to priority international telecoms markets in future free trade agreements.

If you would like to receive our next update, you can sign up to the BSG newsletter in the footer of our website below.

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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