Broadband and paid-for television providers have announced a whole suite of changes
As millions of Britons work from home or stay indoors to practise social distancing in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19, people have become more reliant on their home broadband connection than ever before. From keeping in touch with friends and family, working from home, or simply escaping the grim reality of the pandemic with on-demand entertainment from the likes of NOW TV, Disney+ and Netflix – the speed and reliability of your home internet is more important than ever. Following in the footsteps of Three, O2, EE, Vodafone and other mobile carriers, a number of changes have been introduced to help people struggling to pay their bills, keep people hunkered down entertained, and much more.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have unleashed a series of changes to help keep people connected with friends, family, and important online resources to help them through the crisis. A number of ISPs have also introduced new processes for those who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, which is estimated to have cost thousands of jobs nationwide.
So, no matter what provider you’re using at home, here are all the changes you can expect to your phone and your monthly charges….
Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk HyperOptic, Gigaclear and Openreach
The above companies have all signed their names to a number of commitments drawn-up with the help of Ofcom and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. A number of companies have made additional concessions on top of the below. However, it’s important to know the minimum commitments made by the UK’s biggest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and telecom companies.
They have pledged to ~
- Work with customers who find it difficult to pay their bill as a result of COVID-19 to ensure that they are treated fairly and appropriately supported.
- Remove all data allowance caps on all current fixed broadband services – allowing customers to have unlimited access to websites, streaming services and communication apps.
- Offer some new, generous mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected and the most vulnerable continue to be supported. For example, some of these packages include data boosts at low prices and free calls from their landline or mobile.
- Ensure that vulnerable customers or those self-isolating receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines cannot be carried out.
On top of these commitments, a number of providers have rolled out their own changes to customers.
Sky isn’t simply following the changes agree with the Government, it has its own tweaks too
Sky Q and Sky Broadband
First up, Sky says it’s confident that broadband speeds should be unaffected by the impact of millions working from home. As such, the company is keeping its money-back guarantee as part of its “WiFi Guarantee” scheme, which is included in some Sky Broadband Boost packages.
Unfortunately, for those who are having trouble getting a strong Wi-Fi to all corners of the house, the company has suspended engineer visits and will not be installing Wi-Fi boosters to increase the signal in corners of your home. Sky is suspended almost all of its engineer visits in a bid to keep staff safe during the outbreak.
Engineers for the satellite firm will now prioritise fixing the most vulnerable customers’ issues. Sky says it will suspend visits to any customers’ homes for non-critical Broadband issues. And customers who have never had Sky TV or Sky broadband before will no longer be able to sign-up to the service as all engineer visits for new customers have been suspended until June 1. If you sign-up to a new contract now, Sky will let you access the channels, on-demand content or movies you’re paying for on your smartphone or tablet using Sky Go.
But you won’t be able to watch on the big screen anytime soon.
The changes will impact both broadband and landline customers
Elsewhere, Sky has confirmed that it will be “suspending automatic compensation payments for missed appointments, delayed repairs, delayed installations or loss of service.” It added: “We’re also suspending our participation in Ofcom’s Voluntary Code of Practice for better broadband speeds.”
Finally, in the wake of global sporting fixtures – in almost all disciplines – being suspended, Sky has offered those who subscribe to Sky Sports the chance to freeze their monthly bills. That means you won’t have to pay a penny until things get back to normal.
Confirming the change, Sky said: “In such challenging times, we are working hard to keep you connected to what matters, when it matters most. Our first priority is ensuring our customers continue to get the very best service we can provide.
“While we expect that many of the recently postponed sports events will eventually go ahead, if you wish to pause your sports subscription in the meantime you will not be charged a fee to do so or be held to any notice period. Meanwhile, we continue to provide high-quality content across all of our 11 sports channels.”
Although BT aren’t adding any new customers at the moment, existing customers will find some changes
BT Broadband / BT Sport
Anyone with a BT landline can now spend hours on the phone to loved ones and relatives as all calls to UK landlines and mobiles are capped at £5 a month so you won’t have to worry about the cost of keeping in touch.
The company is also working with the Government to ensure all customers get the latest official advice and guidance on coronavirus via text message. These messages are sent out by BT but on behalf of ‘UK Gov’. BT has promised that it does share any of the information it holds on customers with the UK Government to do this. It’s simply forwarding on the latest health advice to keep people safe and ensure the NHS stays within its capacity.
As for BT Sport. Since there isn’t a lot of live sporting fixtures around at the moment, BT is offering a few choices to customers. The broadcaster says anyone can head to its website to get a bill credit for one month of BT Sport, or, choose for BT to donate that credit back to the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Urgent Appeal.
Explaining more a BT spokesperson said, “We would like to thank BT Sport customers for bearing with us through these challenging times. Our focus has been on maintaining the quality and resilience of our broadband, landline and mobile networks for the nation and our customer focus has been with the elderly and most vulnerable. In this time we’ve introduced a number of measures to support the Government, emergency services and our customers, including the removal of broadband usage caps, capping landline calls and providing free access to NHS online and 111.
“With it looking increasingly unlikely that live sport will return to our screens for some time we have been working through the impact that this has on the BT Sport schedule, our business and our customers. We continue to work closely with the leagues and still hope to be able to broadcast the remainder of the competitions as they are rescheduled over the coming months.”
The company is also offering NOW TV-style flexible contracts on some of its entertainment packages. BT states: “We know being stuck at home can be hard, especially with kids. With our flexible TV packages, you can change your package every month and add and remove entertainment and sport content including Sky channels from NOW TV, so you only pay for the channels you need.”
Virgin Media has rolled out a huge number of changes to TV, fibre broadband and landline customers amid the crisis
Well, Virgin Media is really going above and beyond the call of duty to take care of customers throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The TV and Internet Service Provider (ISP) has already rolled out free unlimited daytime minutes for anyone on the Talk Protected plan for the next two months. It has also pushed out free upgrades to all TV V6 owners, including some of the most popular children’s channels, like Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Cartoonito, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr, NickToons until April 12. And that’s not all. Comedy Central, DMAX, Discovery, FOX, Gold, Kerrang, TLC, and Kiss to name a few have also been added to your set-top box free-of-charge until the same deadline.
Most recently, the firm revealed plans to enable TV V6 customers to get free access to some of Sky’s most popular channels from Good Friday until May 9, 2020. The channels will be accessible on your set-top box – with no need to update anything or change anything on your account. The free channels include Sky One, Sky Comedy, Sky Witness, Sky Crime and Sky Sports Mix to all TV customers. Across these paid-for channels, Virgin Media customers will now be able to access a range of shows on-demand including Hitmen, Bulletproof 2 (Sky One), Ballers, Curb your Enthusiasm (Sky Comedy), The Rookie, and Grey’s Anatomy (Sky Witness).
If you were looking to get access to all of those channels on Sky TV, you’d have to fork out £25 a month minimum.
And if that’s not enough, Virgin Media has also launched Entertainment Picks for Mixit TV customers. This comes with a number of popular entertainment channels, plus themed extras including Lifestyle, Drama, Documentaries and Sport Lite for only £10 per month.