Eurobites: UK telcos remove fixed data caps, go easy on the hard-up to ease COVID-19 pain | Light Reading

Eurobites: UK telcos remove fixed data caps, go easy on the hard-up to ease COVID-19 pain | Light Reading

Also in today’s EMEA regional roundup: UK operators warn of delayed line repairs; BEREC reports no signs of network congestion; the ethics of data tracking at a time of crisis.

  • The UK government has got the country’s telecom industry to agree to a series of measures that are intended to make life a little easier for its customers during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, chief among them the removal of all data caps on fixed broadband services. In a statement, the Department of Culture, Media & Sport spelt out the commitments made by all the UK’s major mobile operators and broadband providers, which also included: a pledge to give struggling customers more leeway when it comes to bill payments; the offer of “some new, generous mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected”; and a promise to ensure that vulnerable customers or those self-isolating receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to landlines cannot be carried out. (See Eurobites: COVID-19 puts kibosh on broadband switching in UK and Eurobites: Virus-led voice-call revival puts strain on UK networks.)
  • In a related move, UK operators took out a joint advert in Saturday’s newspapers to promise to help the country stay connected, though the ad did warn that as “usage increases in the coming weeks and months, it’s likely to take a little longer for queries to be answered and issues to be resolved.”
  • BEREC, the pan-European electronic communications regulator, has issued reassurance that despite the extra demands placed on Europe’s fixed and mobile networks during the coronavirus crisis “no major congestion issues have occurred.” BEREC had, at the prompting of the European Commission, agreed to set up a monitoring mechanism to keep a close eye on the Internet traffic situation in the EU’s member states.
  • Also offering reassurance is the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office, which has issued a statement committing it to working alongside the UK government to make sure that the personal data being collected by the authorities to help in the fight against the coronavirus is being gathered in a legal way. “Generalised location data trend analysis is helping to tackle the coronavirus crisis,” says the ICO’s deputy commissioner, Steve Wood, in the statement. “Where this data is properly anonymised and aggregated, it does not fall under data protection law because no individual is identified We will continue to work alongside Government to provide advice about the application of data protection law during these unprecedented times.” (See COVID-19 stokes fear of the surveillance society and Eurobites: UK mobile operators offer tracking tech to government in COVID-19 fight.)
  • It’s a similar story in Switzerland, where the Federal Office of Public Health has requested data from Swisscom relating to mobility and gatherings in public spaces to check whether the measures to protect against coronavirus infections are being observed. On March 21, the Federal Council banned gatherings of more than five people in public places. Swisscom uses the Mobility Insight platform to identify areas with at least 20 SIM cards in an area measuring 100 meters x 100 meters.

    Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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