ISPA Weekly Update Call
ISPA continues to conduct weekly calls with the membership touching on relevant issues relating to COVID-19. They are used to update members on developments and work ISPA is doing with Government, but also to gain feedback and questions to take to DCMS.
This week the call centred on the Government schemes set up to support NHS clinicians and practises and vulnerable consumers throughout COVID-19, as well as the continuing industry discussions in the B2B market.
Any members with concerns to feedback to Government or questions on any of the ongoing programmes should get in touch with secretariat.
DCMS Committee: Impact of Covid-19
DCMS Secretary of State Oliver Dowden answered questions from the DCMS Committee on the impacts of COVID-19 across the DCMS industries. Key takeaways include:
- Broadband remains a key Government priority and the Minister continues to communicate with relent parties.
- The Minister is working with telecommunications firms to provide internet access to vulnerable people without a connection and with the DofE to get technology to vulnerable children.
- People should use trusted media sources rather than social media for their coronavirus information.
- Dowden is working with Government departments and social media companies to identify false information and why it is being spread.
- The Minister will consider anonymity online, human verification and a Duty of Candour for Online Harms.
- Through the Online Harms Bill, DCMS is pushing to make social media companies more accountable to their own conditions, especially on illegal harms and underage harms.
The full hearing can be heard here.
Social Media companies face questioning on harmful Covid-19 misinformation
The DCMS Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation will question senior executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter on the 30th April about the measures they have implanted to tackle the false stories around coronavirus conspiracy theories, 5G broadband claims and fake accounts.
BEREC report on internet capacity
The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has released its most recent report summarising the main findings of their internet traffic monitoring of each Member State. BREC committed to monitoring and reporting their findings in a joint statement with the European Commission on 19th March.
The research highlights that overall traffic on fixed and mobile networks has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, but no major congestion has occurred. Multiple national regulatory authorities (NRAs) have seen a stabilisation in overall traffic whilst Bulgaria, Romania and Denmark have noticed a decrease since their peak.
The report found that the crisis has seen the following trend in internet traffic: sharp increase, stabilisation and a decrease from the peak. Several Member States have implemented customer-friendly measures including: additional data and free-of-charge services; greater information provision; and technical measures. Details of these measures can be found in the report which can be accessed here.
Responding to a written question from Paul Howell MP (Con) on gigabit-capable broadband, Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to gigabit capable technology and emphasised that 10% of UK premises now have full fibre coverage. Warman also highlighted the work being done to remove barriers to network rollout, legislation to help instillations in flats, future legislation mandating gigabit connectivity in news builds and £5bn investment commitment to aid gigabit rollout in the hardest to reach areas.
Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill
Having passed through the Commons, the Bill passed its Second Reading in the Lords on Wednesday 22nd April. The date for the Committee stage is yet to be scheduled.
Baroness Barran, the Minister for Civil Society and DCMS, outlined the details of the Bill and its scope before Baroness Northover (LD) read out a letter from Lord Clement-Jones who expressed his disappointment that the stage was not taking place virtually. Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab) expressed the parties support for the Bill but highlighted that both he and others in the industry ‘had anticipated a much more wide-ranging and ambitious piece of legislation’. He also highlighted shortfalls in the UKs network by firstly citing that Britain was ranked 35th out of 37 countries by the OECD in 2018 on the proportion of fibre in their total fixed broadband infrastructure and secondly that 700,000 people in the UK are without a decent broadband connection. Lord Collins also raised the issue of high-risk vendors in the telecommunications infrastructure and requested further details on how the market share of high-risk vendors would reduce over time.
Baroness Barran defended the use of high-risk vendors by referring to the analysis conducted by the National Cyber Security Centre and said that legislation will be brought forward in the summer. She also outlined the schemes in place to help those without sufficient broadband speed including the USO.
Changes to the Inquiry into Broadband and the road to 5G
The inquiry, which originally set out to examine the challenges to 5G and the Government’s pledge to deliver gigabit-capable broadband by 2025, has expanded its scope to include the impact of Covid-19 on the rollout of full-fibre and 5G infrastructure, including differences in different geographical locations. The deadline for submitting evidence has also been extended to Friday 19th June with the possibility of further extension. Any organisation which has already submitted their evidence may make a short supplementary submission to address these additional terms.