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Openreach Waive UK Broadband Install Fees for Low-Income Homes

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021 (8:01 am) - Score 2,112
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Network access provider Openreach (BT) has announced the launch of a new “Connect the Unconnected” offer, which will make it possible for UK ISPs to waive “superfast broadband connection fees” for any customers who receive ‘Universal Credit’ with no other earnings, and who aren’t currently connected to its network.

The move could, depending upon the product, result in up to £92 of savings (wholesale fee) on such one-off charges. At present this primarily covers the installation charges for their 40Mbps (10Mbps upload) based Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) broadband service (inc. Wholesale Line Rental, fully unbundled [MPF] and standalone broadband [SOGEA] services).

NOTE: The ‘Connect the Unconnected’ offer is designed to help those most at risk – an estimated 1 million people throughout the country.

On a “trial basisOpenreach has also extended this offer to include selected higher speed tiers at 55Mbps (10Mbps upload) and 80Mbps (20Mbps upload). Sadly, this offer has not been extended to include either of their “ultrafastG.fast or Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based lines.

The network provider has framed their new offer as being part of their response to Ofcom’s call for network operators to provide additional support for those who may be struggling to pay their broadband bills (here). The regulator also warned that if the industry “does not take sufficient action to address our concerns,” then they believe there would be a “strong case for exploring … mandatory social tariffs.”

Katie Milligan, Openreach MD for Customer, Commercial & Propositions, said:

“We believe everyone in the UK deserves access to decent, reliable and affordable broadband, and we’re working in every community, every day, to help make that a reality – including investing £15 billion to build a new ultrafast, ultra-reliable full fibre broadband network to 25 million premises by December 2026.

Recent Ofcom figures show how the cost of broadband has dropped dramatically in recent years despite data usage rising massively, but we’re still keen to do more to help low-income households get online.

The way we’re regulated means millions of consumers and businesses will continue to benefit from low prices, which are already amongst the lowest in Europe and support strong competition amongst hundreds of providers using our network – but we want to go further. We hope this offer complements the range of existing support from providers across the industry and helps people who aren’t already online to start benefiting from the wealth of information, connectivity and opportunities that great broadband can deliver.”

Matt Warman, UK Digital Infrastructure Minister, said:

“We have been working closely with Openreach and the wider sector to build a broadband market where cost is not a constraint to getting online. This welcome step will help people struggling with bills access the connectivity they need to thrive in today’s digital age.”

The offer itself will go live from 5th October 2021 for all ISPs and to households that receive Universal Credit with zero other earnings, who have not been connected to the Openreach network “for the past 90 days.” Openreach adds that broadband ISPs can choose to pass the savings on to customers in a “number of ways“, making it cheaper for low-income households to get online “up-front or over the course of their contract term.”

However, the requirement of not having been connected to Openreach’s network for the past 90 days seems likely to reduce the impact of this offer, as too is the fact that very few broadband providers – particularly smaller players – currently have systems in place to identify those on Universal Credit. The big players like BT, which already have this by virtue of support for their social tariff, will of course find adoption far easier.

The move may of course act as some encouragement for other ISPs to ensure they can identify such users in order to benefit, which in turn might also make it easier for them to introduce their own social tariffs further down the road (i.e. should Ofcom decide to force one on all ISPs – both big and small alike).

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Paul salter says:

    I have been living with ridiculously slow broadband speed for a number of years now, yet a little over 500yrds from my home, businesses and homes are enjoying the benefits of fibre.
    I have wrote to my local MP who said that she would look into the hold up and part council funded to the cabinet fibre, no response.
    My section of the housing estate would welcome the opportunity to join the rest of the world.

    1. Brian Gibson says:

      I have the very same problem only made worse by not fit for purpose outdated 60 year old copper interior cabling
      in my housing association block of flats, which are constantly in a state of disrepair
      Nobody gives a toss about homes such as this and they never will therefore their will always be a 2 tier system of
      those in affluent areas with the very best 21st century super fast broadband band and the others who are
      condemned to useless copper cabling in older housing association blocks of flats.

    2. Gary H says:

      Brian, you’re obviously ignoring the multitude of reports on here regarding Councils making deals to provide improved connections to their social housing stock. Just because your association isn’t doing anything does not make this an rich vs poor or us vs them scenario.

      There are also many ‘affluent’ areas which have poor connectivity.

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