All UK broadband firms have agreed to remove data allowance caps during the coronavirus crisis under a new deal struck with the government.
Internet service providers and mobile operators including BT/EE, Openreach, Virgin Media, Sky, O2 and Vodafone have agreed to a number of measures, effective immediately, designed to ensure all Brits have access to telecoms services during the lockdown.
The removal of data caps will apply to all fixed broadband services, while the firms have agreed to offer generous new mobile and landline packages to ensure people remain connected and the most vulnerable are supported.
These include data boosts at low prices and free calls from landlines or mobiles.
All telecoms providers have pledged to provide fair treatment and appropriate support to anyone struggling to pay their bills due to Covid-19, while any vulnerable or self-isolating customers will be given alternative methods of communication where possible if repairs cannot be carried out.
The new measures, launched today, come in addition to a range of commitments made by individual telecoms firms.
“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. This package helps people to stay connected whilst they stay home.”
Executives at the telecoms firms said that connectivity was more important now than ever and vowed to support vulnerable customers during the pandemic.
“With connections to more than 24m customer premises across the UK, we know our network is critical,” said Openreach chief executive Clive Selley.
“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.”
Ofcom chief executive Melanie Dawes said: “We recognise providers are dealing with unprecedented challenges at the moment. 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.”
It marks the latest collaboration between industry and government as the coronavirus crisis drives increased demand for telecoms services.
Earlier this month City A.M. revealed that mobile operators had been approached by officials about using mobile signals to monitor the outbreak.
The measures, which are in compliance with data privacy laws, could allow the government to create so-called heat maps to monitor the movement of citizens.