Coronavirus: internet providers enhance support for customers, end data caps

Supporting the UK’s government efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and support home working, UK network operators agree a wide range of supportive measures

After unprecedented discussions with the UK government’s Department of Culture Media and Sport and telecoms regulator Ofcom, the UK’s network operators have agreed a package of enhanced support for the added millions of home network users arising from the Covid-19 outbreak.

The commitments from BT/EE, Virgin Media, Sky, Openreach, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and KCOM are in addition to a range of supportive measures offered by the individual providers to their customers affected by circumstances arising from the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Effective immediately, the 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. In addition, the providers will remove data allowance caps on all current fixed broadband services.

All providers have agreed to offer some new mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected, with some of the packages including 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.

Commenting on the move, the digital secretary at the UK’s Department of Culture Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said: “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. It is essential that people stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. This package helps people to stay connected whilst they stay home.”

Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, BT’s national broadband provision division, which has been accelerating full-fibre roll-out, remarked: “With connections to more than 24 million customer premises across the UK, we know our network is critical. 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.

“I’m delighted to see the industry and government working together to help the UK at this critical time. Right now, digital connectivity is more important than ever as we connect our customers to vital services and their loved ones”
Mark Evans, Telefónica UK

“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,” added Selley.

“In these unprecedented times we know how important connectivity is to people’s lives,” remarked Lutz Schüler, CEO of Virgin Media, which has also been ramping up fibre broadband roll-out. “Alongside the many other steps we’re already taking, we’re committed to helping our most vulnerable customers and ensuring they are supported as much as possible as we work tirelessly to keep the country connected.”

Mark Evans, CEO of Telefónica UK, owner of the O2 network, commented: “I’m delighted to see the industry and government working together to help the UK at this critical time. Right now, digital connectivity is more important than ever as we connect our customers to vital services and their loved ones.”

Sky’s executive vice-president and CEO for the UK and Europe, Stephen van Rooyen, said: “There has never been a more important time for people to stay connected. We will play our part to help everyone stay in contact with their loved ones and to ensure vulnerable people can access the help and information they need.”

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It's great to see providers committed to supporting the need to stay connected despite physical distancing. Some providers like Vodafone and EE seem to be doing more to support vulnerable adds with things like data allowances. This facilitates well being checks, online shopping, benefit claims, home schooling, accessing guidance, connecting with family not to mention sanity saving things like social media. 
It would be great if other providers followed suit.