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ISPs Resist Calls For Free Broadband During Coronavirus Outbreak

David Paul

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The UK Government has been asked to step in as more people work from home and schools across the country close for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19.

Broadband providers in the UK are resisting calls to provide service users with free internet during the coronavirus outbreak, with trade bodies warning that this could affect the quality of service.

As people across the country work from home and closed school cause more children to spend time streaming and using multiple devices, the daytime usage is currently as high as the spike in usage seen in the evening, according to ISPs such as Vodafone and TalkTalk.

Some say that taking this action could help people over the age of 70 to sign up to broadband packages and help them connect with friends and relatives during isolation.

Heather Donnelly, marketing manager at ScotlandIS, said that “digital connectivity will quickly become a lifeline for our most vulnerable people in the COVID-19 emergency”. But that in the most vulnerable populations many people who do “not have access to internet connected devices, or the ability to pay for access to the internet and maintain devices when they break”.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa) is in talk with the Government to help customers who become unable to continue paying their bills because they are no longer working or had pay cuts.

A spokesman for the organisation said: “Things are naturally developing extremely quickly at the moment, and Ispa plans to seek further guidance from government on these issues so that customers can remain connected to the internet during these unprecedented times.”

With the coronavirus infecting more than 200,000 worldwide and causing more than 10,000 deaths, and with the UK yet to see the worst of the pandemic, school closures and social distancing could last for several more months.

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With people out of work and wages being cut, it will become more difficult for the public to pay for services such as council tax and internet.

The government has announced a swathe of new financial aids to help people through the coming months. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to announce an employment and wage subsidy package to try to protect millions of jobs.

Usage of broadband services has also increased across the UK in the last week, showing the number of people that are currently spending their time working from their homes. Vodafone has seen a 30% increase in Britain, and a 50% worldwide, for its services, while TalkTalk says its daytime service has jumped by more than 20%.

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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