The UK's big five telecoms companies have lifted data caps on all current fixed broadband services to ensure residents get the internet they need while locked down to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and O2 agreed to remove all data allowances on current landline broadband after talks with the government and regulator Ofcom. The changes will come into effect immediately.
The telcos also agreed to offer new mobile and landline packages to help vulnerable people stay connected during the pandemic. The new plans include data boosts for lower prices and free calls from mobiles and landlines.
As part of the deal, the telecoms companies also pledged fair treatment for anyone struggling to pay their bills as a result of the virus outbreak. And for those whose broadband needs fixing while they're locked down, there's a pledge to offer alternative methods of communication.
This announcement comes not long after most mobile networks collectively promised to zero-rate official websites relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing customers to get reliable information and support without having to worry about eating up their data allowance.
The initiatives won government and regulatory approval.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "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."
"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."
Melanie Dawes, chief exec of Ofcom, said: "We'll continue to work with Government and industry to help make sure people stay connected."
The deal comes in an apparent U-turn to an leaked internal memo at BT last week, which said the company would halt all but the most essential home visits and refuse new connection requests until June as it dealt with the fallout from the virus. BT did not respond to The Register's requests for clarification.
But BT remains confident that its networks can handle the added workload. Earlier this month, it said that although weekday daytime traffic has increased between 35 and 60 per cent, it is still half the average peak evening usage, and "nowhere near" the network's full capacity. Vodafone and TalkTalk, which have seen similar increases, also stand by their networks. ®
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