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Broadband, Mobile & Energy News: Weekly Roundup 16/11/18

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Here’s a roundup of top stories in the industry this week:

Hyperoptic offers their best broadband prices ever for Black Friday sale

This week saw the arrival of some early Black Friday deals, as Hyperoptic announced that they will be reducing the price of their 1Gbps capable “hyperfast” FTTP/B home broadband service. The Black Friday deal, which will last until 5 December 2018, means that prices for this service start at just £15 a month. If you’re a new Hyperoptic customer, you will also benefit from free installation and set-up (which can cost up to £240 otherwise).

Customers are able to choose between a “broadband and phone bundle or a broadband-only service on a 12 month contract”. For a few pounds more, you can opt for a ‘no contract’ option, although this is a broad-band only deal. To take advantage of Hyperoptic’s offer, place your order online and use their promo code, BLACKFRIDAY.

Government internet porn block delayed until Easter 2019

The government’s plan for a strict age verification system to stop underage people visiting adult websites has been pushed back and is now set to be implemented in Easter 2019. The system is meant to target “commercial websites and apps that contain pornographic content”. Currently, major ISPs are expected to give their customers the ability to choose whether or not to block adult content through Parental Controls.

Unfortunately, a robust age-verification system will necessitate people giving up their personal information, which would presumably “end up being managed by the same companies who offer such websites in the first place”. Therefore, extra protections over personal data needs to be put into place beforehand.

Margot James, MP, confirmed the UK government will be taking more steps to ensure that future legislation is introduced, and that the rules would extend to social media sites, including Twitter. There are also plans to implement a time limit for websites to remove ‘harmful content’, such as hate speech.

Ofcom fines EE and Virgin Media for overcharging customers

EE and Virgin Media have been fined a combined £13.3m by Ofcom when it was found that they had been overcharging 400,000 customers who left their contracts early. Virgin customers were overcharged almost £2.8m in excessively high early-exit fees.

Gaucho Rasmussen, director of investigations and enforcement at Ofcom, said: “EE and Virgin Media broke our rules by overcharging people who ended their contracts early. Those people were left out of pocket and the charges amounted to millions of pounds”.

Virgin has argued against the fine and plans to appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal. Tom Mockridge, chief executive of Virgin Media, said: “This decision and fine is not justified, proportionate or reasonable. A small percentage of customers were charged an incorrect amount when they ended one or more of their services early and for that we are very sorry.”

The company has worked to either reimburse or make charitable donations for 99.8% of the affected customers

EE failed to set out the early-exit charges to its customers when contracts were signed, which led to £13.5m worth of overbilling. A spokesperson for EE said: “We’ve already refunded customers and changed the way we calculate early termination charges, and we will continue to focus on ensuring our policies are clear and fair for all customers.”

Centrica joins startup Verv in community energy blockchain trial

Energy company Centrica has confirmed that it will begin “working with a machine learning start-up” for the “next phase of a community energy blockchain trial”. Centrica has joined Verv’s trial in Hackney, where 13 blocks of flats have had solar panels installed and the blockchain-based energy trading platform has been introduced to 40 households.

Now, the energy company will begin to trial different billing methods in an effort to simplify the way in which companies lay out their bills and communicate important information when energy comes from more than one source. British Gas will also explore ways that customers could be billed if those with solar panels sold extra energy to neighbours, making use of Verv’s AI technology.

Peter Davies, CEO and Verv founder, said: “Bill consolidation is a significant component of peer-to-peer energy trading; we need to ensure that consumers get a clear bill which breaks down where their energy has come from and charges them accordingly. I’m looking forward to this phase as we explore more in-depth logistics of real-world implementation and edge closer and closer to it.”

EECC to go further to stop ‘misleading’ and ‘confusing’ fibre broadband ads

The European Parliament is to hold a vote to approve the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC). This could increase investment in ‘full fibre’ broadband and 5G mobile networks. There is also a call for the EU to toughen up on “‘fake fibre’ marketing by ISPs”.

The UK has already revised its ECC, which helps regulate “how telecoms operators can access and use public or private land” for building new networks. Therefore, it is unlikely that the changes to the EECC will have an effect on the UK market.

Ronan Kelly, President of the FTTHCouncil, said: “We believe the Code creates a more investment-friendly environment as well as ensures the regulatory certainty needed to foster efficient and competitive investments in future-proof digital infrastructures.” Kelly was also resolute in his assertion that EU policy-makers need to take more actions to “prevent misleading fibre advertisements”. The current position of the Advertising Standards Authority “allows slower hybrid fibre” ISPs to advertise their services as “fibre optic, despite big differences in speed and quality”.

Erzsébet Fitori, Director General of the FTTHCouncil, said: “The words ‘fibre’ and ‘fibre speeds’ are increasingly used in advertisement while the advertised product is not genuinely a full fibre connection.

“This confusion is misleading for the consumers and prevents them from making an informed choice about the products available to them”.