Coronavirus: UK Removes Data Caps For Home Broadband

Data caps for home fixed-line broadband packages are being removed, after an agreement was reached with many of the UK’s leading Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

The removal comes as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a lock-down in the UK on 22 March, initially lasting for three weeks, in order to get people to stay at home to halt the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Last week Openreach declared a ‘Matter Beyond Our Reasonable Control’ (MBORC) on all products, effective 24th March. This means that its engineers will avoid entering customer premises for new broadband connections, and will now prioritise only the essential work to maintain the network.

Data cap agreement

The government, Ofcom, and the telecom sector announced that they had agreed “measures with telecoms companies to support vulnerable consumers through Covid-19.”

“Following constructive discussions with the Digital Secretary and Ofcom, the UK’s major telecommunications providers have today agreed a set of important commitments to support and protect vulnerable consumers and those who may become vulnerable due to circumstances arising from Covid-19,” said the government.

It said that the UK’s major providers, namely BT/EE, Openreach, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, and KCOM, have reached an agreement on a number of issues.

  1. Firstly, all ISPs “committed to working with customers who find it difficult to pay their bill as a result of Covid-19 to ensure that they are treated fairly and appropriately supported.”
  2. Secondly, all ISPs “will remove all data allowance caps on all current fixed broadband services.”
  3. Thirdly, all providers “have agreed to offer some new, generous mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected and the most vulnerable continue to be supported.”
  4. Fourthly, all “providers will ensure that vulnerable customers or those self-isolating receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines cannot be carried out.”

“It’s fantastic to see mobile and broadband providers pulling together to do their bit for the national effort by helping customers, particularly the most vulnerable, who may be struggling with bills at this difficult time,” said Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.

“It is essential that people stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives,” said Dowden. “This package helps people to stay connected whilst they stay home.”

“We recognise providers are dealing with unprecedented challenges at the moment,” explained Ofcom CEO Melanie Dawes. “So we welcome them stepping up to protect vulnerable customers, at a time when keeping in touch with our friends and families has never been more important. We’ll continue to work with Government and industry to help make sure people stay connected.”

“With connections to more than 24 million customer premises across the UK, we know our network is critical,” said Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach. “We’ll do everything we can to keep people connected while prioritising our support for critical public services, vulnerable customers and those without a working line.”

“Thankfully a large amount of the work we do – including fixing faults, adding capacity and building faster, more reliable full fibre networks – can be completed outside, so you’ll still see Openreach engineers working to maintain service across the UK,” he concluded.

Bandwidth concern

The move comes amid concerns about bandwidth during the Coronavirus pandemic.

This has led to major streaming platforms including Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook and Disney to lower the quality of their video content to ease bandwidth concerns expressed by some EU officials.

Since the public emergency caused by the pandemic, BT has maintained that there is plenty of capacity in the UK’s networks.

Howard Watson, chief technology and information officer for BT Group, has previously stated that the carrier “has more than enough capacity” in its UK network.

“Even if the same heavy data traffic that we see each evening were to run throughout the daytime, there is still enough capacity for work applications to run simultaneously,” he reportedly said.

Meanwhile BT chief executive Philip Jansen recently confirmed he had been diagnosed with Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and has gone into self-isolation.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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