Major providers and Government reach agreement on support for vulnerable customers
The utility of broadband if it was not clear to people has become very clear in the last few weeks and if the current restrictions on movement remain in place people are going to find broadband becoming even more important.
The major providers who are with respect to this announcement on how the vulnerable will be handled is:
BT/EE, Openreach, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, and KCOM
In the case of BT our assumption is that Plusnet falls into the BT category, EE was likely called out to highlight its position as a major mobile provider too.
In the following paste from the Government website where they talk about all providers they are referring to those listed in bold above. Some of the things are what providers have been doing already and there will be plenty of other providers not mentioned who will be making similar commitments or may even be going beyond what has been agreed, there may also unfortunately be some who just say tough luck and ignore peoples requests for help.
- All providers have 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.
All providers will remove all data allowance caps on all current fixed broadband services.
- 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. For example, some of these packages include data boosts at low prices and free calls from their landline or mobile.
- 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.
- These commitments are in addition to a range of supportive measures offered by the individual providers to their customers affected by circumstances arising from Covid-19.
On the point of not being able to pay the interpretation seems to be that providers will not cut people off for non payment at this time, but do not abuse this since once things return to normal you will find yourself with a bill that still needs payment. For those who have lost their job/income due to the COVID-19 crisis and are having trouble paying bills you should contact your provider to inform them, some providers already on proof will reduce the monthly cost for a period of time.
On the new mobile and landline packages we don't have any price information but would expect this information to become available over the next week or two.
Migrations between service providers using the same technology is still possible, but unless you are a key worker or vulnerable person it is unlikely you will be able to ressurrect an old phone line to get a second broadband service running in the home. If your second phone line has line rental being paid then the remote activation for FTTC and ADSL/ADSL2+ services means you should be able to get it up and running at this time. Otherwise the path to adding more broadband speed into a home is a 4G home router.
The axing of broadband caps is what many outlets are focussing on, but on fixed line services these have been vanishing for years and while we don't have access to the numbers on capped fixed line services we don't think there were many compared to the 25 million or so broadband accounts in the UK. What is likely is that a disproportionate number of vulnerable customers were on these services, so removing the caps will help families stay in touch.
On broadband roll-outs while those building the networks may have slowed down or shifted to working on fault repair we are as yet to see a slowdown in roll-out, but from looking at other events such as Christmas holidays and major storms we believe that it may be a few weeks before our work tracking the roll-outs is reflected in the figures on https://labs.thinkbroadband.com/local not increasing by the same rate for full fibre coverage.