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KCOM Reintroduces Broadband Data Caps as COVID19 Surges

Friday, September 11th, 2020 (7:48 am) - Score 1,016
covid-19 virus broadband isp uk

Hull-based UK ISP KCOM has said it will restore broadband data caps on packages with fixed data allowances from 1st October, which were “temporarily” removed earlier this year as part of the provider’s response to support customers who needed to work from home during the COVID-19 lockdown. But there’s a problem.

The East Yorkshire ISP is by no means alone in this and many other broadband and mobile providers have, over the past couple of months, started to remove some of the bonus features that were temporarily introduced to help consumers through the initial wave of infections. Indeed it would be unrealistic to expect them to be able to maintain such things for a longer period of time at their own expense.

Now, as the country emerges from lockdown and life slowly returns to normal, KCOM has announced it will reintroduce data limits on capped broadband package from Thursday, 1 October. This means customers not on unlimited packages will be charged for going over their monthly data limits,” said the provider to customers this week.

However, one positive change is that the provider has also announced that they will be permanently removing the data caps on their Lightstream Flex packages, which are available to customers on certain benefits. On top of that they’re “looking to introduce more uncapped broadband packages later this year.”

Sean Royce, MD of KCOM Retail, said:

“It’s fair to say it’s been a challenging time for everybody as we deal with the threat of coronavirus.

For many, this meant finding new ways of working and schooling from home while also staying connected to friends and family online and keeping up-to-date with the latest Government advice and information.

In March, to help the people of Hull and East Yorkshire overcome this challenge – and to get on with their daily lives as normally as possible – we removed all the data caps on our broadband packages.

This meant that no-one had to worry about going over their data limits or unexpected charges as they continued to work at home during lockdown.

We also extended the availability of unlimited data during the school summer holidays as youngsters went from doing their class work at home to enjoying time off, streaming their favourite TV shows and playing their games consoles online.”

The big difficulty for KCOM, and other providers, is that COVID-19 hasn’t gone away and in the past week has begun to surge again, looking very much like it could be the start of a second wave. Toward the end of August 2020 the UK was still seeing a little over 1,000 confirmed cases per day (this had risen steadily from a low of c.600 in early – mid July), but in the space of around ten days that has jumped to nearly 3,000.

At the same time, it probably doesn’t help that the Government has been sending mixed messages by banning larger gatherings while actively encouraging everybody to go back to the office, back to school and to use public transport as if everything was suddenly normal again. Meanwhile the virus hasn’t changed, a vaccine has yet to arrive and we’re still very much in a global pandemic.

The question now is how much flexibility will network operators have left to respond if the situation gets worse during the autumn and winter, as many fear it will. As commercial businesses they can only spend so much money on protective measures for customers before their fuel runs dangerously low. Perhaps BT’s move this week to prepare customers for future price hikes is a sign of things to come (here).

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar Tom says:

    KCOM being KCOM.

    Lets charge double compared to the rest of the country and slap on a usage limit. That’s fair.

    1. Avatar Ben Bristow says:

      “This means customers not on unlimited packages will be charged for going over their monthly data limits”

      I know it’s popular to hate on KCOM but this seems like it’s just going back to how it was? They were doing a favour by removing the limits for those that weren’t on the unlimited plans. Not that I agree with data limits, glad to be on Virgin Media in that regard.

    2. Avatar GNewton says:

      It looks like the KCOM Lightstream packages are all unlimited, according to their website at https://www.kcomhome.com/lightstream/products

      Many areas elsewhere in the UK don’t even have comparable fibre broadband products!

  2. Avatar Granola says:

    Does it cost an ISP if their customers use more data, is it to protect their network from getting maxed out at peak-time or simply a revenue stream (pay upfront for “free” any amount of data on a plan or by amount used on a cheaper plan) ?

    1. Avatar Ben says:

      Yes, data transfer costs money. KCOM likely need to pay for enough capacity to transport all the data from Hull to London (e.g. if they customers use 200Gb/s of traffic at peak times then they need the equivalent of 200 Cat5e cables – although realistically they’ll be using a much smaller number of fibre optic cables). From London, they’ll need to either pay another ISP to deliver the data (£X per TB probably), or pay for a port at an “exchange” point where data is exchanged for free. They appear to have 5 ports – 2 running at 40Gb/s, 2 running at 20Gb/s, and 1 running at 10Gb/s, and each port will have a monthly cost.

  3. Avatar Ray Woodward says:

    A sign of things to come …

  4. Avatar EndlessWaves says:

    If you look at the curves in other countries it seems to take about 3 months before rates start dropping again after the second upward curve starts, so by October it’s likely we’ll be at the peak and seeing the infection rates drop again.

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