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Broadband, Mobile & Energy News: Weekly Roundup 03/08/18


We’ve got another round of the week’s most important energy and broadband stories for you:

Labour Aims to Triple USO Speeds at a Cost of £1.6bn

While the government has received continued criticism for setting the target speeds of its Universal Service Obligation plan too low. In response to such criticism, Labour has reiterated its 2017 election manifesto promise to set a USO at with minimum speeds of 30Mbps for downloads, and 6Mbps for uploads. This is the government’s proposed target of 10Mbps download speeds, and 6 times the proposed upload speed.

The USO is a plan to   ensure minimum broadband download speeds for every premises across the country by 2020.

While previously Labour has not said how much they were willing to spend on their USO, they have now pledged to invest £1.6bn on a plan to bring their minimum target speeds to 100% of UK premises within 4 years.

However, aside from the USO, it is worth remembering that the government also currently has longer term plans to ensure nationwide coverage of 100Mbps fully fibreoptic broadband by 2033, at a cost of between £3-£5bn.

Due to the likelihood of power changing hands before this is fully implemented though, there have been increasing calls for cross-party collaboration on upgrading the country’s broadband infrastructure. Especially since all the major political parties seem to share a common vision when it comes to the need to upgrade the UK’s broadband infrastructure. Political disagreement on this issue largely comes down to how much money each party is willing to commit to investing in such upgrades.

Ofcom No Longer Investigating Three and Vodafone for Net Neutrality Breach

Ofcom announced this week that they would no longer be investigating Three and Vodafone for possible breaches of the EU’s net neutrality regulations. The regulatory body released a statement saying that they were satisfied with the changes made or promised by both mobile network operators in response to the probe launched earlier this year by Ofcom into their practices.

Ofcom had been investigating Vodafone’s passes, which offered unlimited data for certain apps, while restricting video resolution on others. Three was potentially in breach of the rules by preventing some of its customers from tethering (using a mobile broadband device, such as a smartphone, as a mobile hotspot), but also slowing down some roaming data at the same time.

Whilst the two operators have satisfied Ofcom for the moment, both have reserved their rights to continue with the practices they were under investigation for in the future. If this occurs, however, Ofcom has said that it will be ready to launch another investigation into their practices.

Hyperoptic Secures £250m funding for “Gigabit Britain”

Superfast fibre optic broadband provider Hyperoptic announced that it has managed to raise a quarter of a billion pounds of funding for its latest project. Hyperoptic’s CEO, Dana Tobak, announced that “all our teams are forging ahead with one rally cry: Let’s Gigabit Britain” as the company aims to use the funding to expand its fibreoptic network infrastructure.

The company’s aim is to provide ultrafast 1Gbps broadband speeds to 50 UK towns and cities before 2019. To that end, the company has been working with a host of top tier banks and financial institutions. The deal has been put together by ING and BNP Paribas, and the funding has been provided by 8 banks, including Barclays and RBS.

Since being founded in 2011, Hyperoptic has made its services available to half a million premises across the country, providing them with broadband speeds in excess of twenty times the national average. Ms Tobak went on to praise her company’s rapid growth in the sector, putting it down to a strong business plan, and outlined the way forward for the company.

Hyperoptic plans to use the investment to quadruple its network reach to 2 million premises by 2022, and then to an additional 3 million, bringing the total to 5 million, by 2025.

Thousands of UK Churches Go Green

Over 5,500 of the UK’s churches and cathedrals have switched to renewable energy sources in an effort to tackle the “enormous injustice” of climate change. Christian churches of all denominations have made the switch, including famous cathedrals such as Salisbury and York Minster, urged on by leaders in the faith calling on their congregations to do their moral duty in the fight against climate change.

One such high profile church leader was Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, now the chair of Christian Aid. He said, “churches are part of a global network and so are often very aware of the plight of our brothers and sisters suffering from droughts, floods and extreme weather around the world.” To that end, the former Archbishop said the Church of England would no longer support fossil fuel companies which do not meet targets set by the Paris climate change agreement.

With 5,500 churches making the change, each with average annual electricity bills of around £1,000, it is estimated that the move will be amount to £5.5m boost to green energy suppliers.

Meanwhile, the Church of England’s leading environmentalist, Nicholas Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury, said that “it’s fantastic to see churches doing their bit to ensure they reduce their impact on the environment. They are also giving a boost to clean energy, which is essential to reduce harmful carbon emissions. Climate change is an enormous injustice and is hurting the poor first and worst. Switching to responsible sources of electricity may seem like a small thing on its own, but when joined together it can make a real difference.”

Scottish Power Reveals Smart Meter Enabled Half Hourly Price Changes

Major UK energy firm Scottish Power  has announced that smart meters could allow energy suppliers to introduce half hourly surge price shifts. The company said it was waiting to get the green light from the energy regulator, Ofgem, over whether this could become the new industry standard.

This news comes following a warning from a former high level Ofgem employee, who claimed that the energy companies had this as their ‘hidden agenda’ behind pushing the smart meter upgrade.

Keith Anderson, Scottish Power’s CEO, defended the plans, by saying that “we would aim to introduce tariffs that offer savings to our customers based on real-time information. Beyond this, half-hourly data will benefit consumers by delivering a smarter grid. Network companies will be able to monitor the exact flow of power and manage the local network in real time to respond to how people live their lives.”

However, while it is thought that in the long-term smart meters would save consumers’ money by increasing their awareness of their real time energy usage, and allowing them to be more efficient, the tariffs proposed by Scottish Power would see households charged significantly more for using gas and electricity at peak times, or on busy days of the year. This news also comes off the back of a report last week that smart meters will only lead to households saving on average £11 off their energy bills per year – savings which could be entirely negated under the terms of these new tariffs.

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