This week we held our first call with the wider membership to discuss ISPA’s response to COVID-19 and how we are engaging with Government and other relevant stakeholders. We will continue to provide regular updates to members in a regular call at 2pm on Wednesdays from 1st April. If you have any questions on this, or comments to be fed back to Government please email email@example.com.
Key focus areas for this week have revolved around streetworks, working with local authorities during lockdown particularly in relation to the key worker status of telecommunications workers. We are continuing to coordinate with other trade bodies and directly with members to ensure all communications from the industry are as coherent as possible.
The Coronavirus Bill received Royal Assent on Wednesday which is designed to buy time and provide the Government with 'extraordinary measures... when strictly necessary'. The Bill is limited to two years and an amendment requires the House to confirm the powers every six months. Measures within the Bill fall into five categories. Increasing the availability of NHS and social care staff; reducing the burden for staff; slowing the spread of the virus via social distancing; dignity in dying; and supporting the population to get through the crisis.
Ofcom statement on ongoing work delays due to COVID-19
Ofcom have made a statement on the impact of COVID-19 on their plan of work for 2020.
Key notes from the statement can be seen below:
- Ofcom highlighted the importance of telecoms providers during the pandemic and ‘lockdown’, thanking providers for the steps that they have already taken.
- Ofcom’s priority for the coming months is to maintain support for consumers and businesses.
- Ofcom will publish a revised version of their proposed plan of work for 2020/21 at the end of April that takes account of the COVID-19 and provides a revised timetable.
- Ofcom are suspending all existing consultation deadlines and information requests.
- Ofcom are putting all new consultations, decisions and information requests on hold.
- Ofcom are discussing with the Government the implementation deadlines of the European Electronic Communications Code, as this may need to be delayed.
- Ofcom will still ensure that markets operate with integrity and measures to ensure fairness for customers continue.
Written Question on Broadband Rollout
Matt Warman MP, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, wrote in reply to Jonathon Gullis MP (Con) regarding the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband throughout Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent. He highlighted that full fibre coverage now reaches 10% of UK premises, that the Government is continuing to reduce barriers to network rollout and the Government’s £5bn funding to support gigabit rollout in the hardest to reach areas. Warman also wrote that 98.9% of Staffordshire had access to superfast broadband and the Government had invested £9.6 million into better broadband in the area. Focusing on Stoke-on-Trent he informed Gullis that the city had received £9.2million for a Local Full Fibre Networks project that would provide open access and gigabit-capable coverage by spring 2021.
Written Question on Online Harms
Alexander Stafford MP (Con) asked multiple questions on the level of online harms resulting from Covid-19 and the closure of schools. Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Digital and Culture, wrote that Covid-19 and the resulting measures may result in more people being online, including vulnerable users and school age children. She confirmed that the Government was working with government departments, technology companies, civil society and academia to make the UK the safest place online. Full texts can be found here, here, here and here.
Writing to Ruth Jones MP (Lab) Dinenage clarified that the Online Harms White Paper would establish a new duty of care on companies which would be overseen by an independent regulator with strong enforcement powers. These levels of protection will be higher for children than for adults. Consequently, companies must use tools such as age verification technology to prevent children accessing age-inappropriate content.
Dinenage also replied to Daisy Cooper MP (LD) regarding online harms from news media and information websites. She highlighted that the Government is committed to a free and independent press and confirmed that the Online Harms White Paper does not seek to prohibit press freedom.
ISPA Awards – written entry form deadline approaches
Technical testing of the ISPA Awards is well underway, and the next deadline is today - Friday 27th March for written entry forms to be submitted. The awards ceremony is scheduled for later this year and will includes the awards ceremony itself, three course dinner with wine, live band and entertainment. The awards categories include the Best Business ISP Best Consumer ISP, Best Consumer Solution, Best Rural ISP, Best New ISP, Best VoIP, and many more... Further details on timings will be released in due course.
ISPA Conference and 25th ISPA anniversary reception
The annual ISPA Conference will take place on 14th October in the offices of our legal partners Bird&Bird in London.
If you would like to be involved in shaping the agenda, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org