BT speeds up its UK wide full-fibre broadband programme

BT is to accelerate the expansion of its full-fibre broadband infrastructure and to explore a joint venture to help to fund the extra investment. Read more: BT speeds up its UK wide full-fibre broadband programme

BT speeds up its UK wide full-fibre broadband programme

BT is to accelerate the expansion of its full-fibre broadband infrastructure and to explore a joint venture to help to fund the extra investment.

Britain’s biggest telecoms group said that it would increase its full-fibre programme by five million premises, with a target of reaching 25 million homes by the end of 2026. BT’s previous commitment was 20 million premises by the mid-to-late 2020s and it built connections to two million premises in its last financial year.

Philip Jansen, BT’s chief executive, said: “A number of uncertainties have now been removed [to] give us the green light to build the UK’s next generation digital infrastructure even faster.” BT said that the expansion would create an additional 7,000 jobs.

A review by the regulator Ofcom has given BT greater clarity on the returns its Openreach broadband infrastructure division can make from its full-fibre investment and the government’s 5G spectrum auction was less costly than expected. BT also expects to benefit from lower tax this year and next from the government’s super-deduction announcement in the budget, which is designed to stimulate capital investment.

BT also announced the outcome of a triennial review of its pension fund, removing another uncertainty for the company and shareholders. It said that the deficit had been reduced by more than £4 billion to £7.98 billion.

About £2 billion of the remaining deficit will be paid back via an asset-backed loan secured against EE, with the balance met over ten years by annual cash contributions that will reduce from an initial £900 million to £600 million from July 2024.

It has led BT to confirm its plans to reinstate the dividend this financial year to 7.7p per share, having cut its dividend last year to help to pay for the full-fibre expansion.

BT is the former state monopoly privatised in 1984, whose businesses also include EE, the mobile network and the broadcaster BT Sport. BT confirmed last month that it was in talks to sell a stake in its sports broadcast business as it shifts investment into full-fibre broadband.

The company has been in the midst of an intense period where a restructuring involving large-scale job losses has brought the threat of strike action. BT also unexpectedly announced in March that Jan du Plessis, its chairman, would be stepping down this year after less than four years in the role as long-running tensions behind the scenes at the BT board burst into the open over its transformation.

The updates came alongside BT’s full-year results today, which showed that revenue fell 7 per cent to £21.3 billion as the pandemic weakened sales to business customers and live sport to pubs and clubs was disrupted. Profit before tax fell 23 per cent to £1.8 billion.

Jansen, 54, said that after “a number of years of tough work . . . we’re now pivoting to consistent and predictable growth”.

BT is forecasting adjusted revenue to be “broadly flat” year on year and adjusted earnings to be between £7.5 billion and £7.7 billion.

It left shares in BT down 8¾p, or 5 per cent, to 160½p, paring a recovery in the stock, which had fallen below 100p last autumn.

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BT speeds up its UK wide full-fibre broadband programme

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Social media users face age check under new rules to protect children

People could be forced to verify their age before using social media platforms under government plans to protect children. Read more: Social media users face age check under new rules to protect children

Social media users face age check under new rules to protect children

People could be forced to verify their age before using social media platforms under government plans to protect children.

Facebook, Google, Twitter and other tech giants will face huge fines if under-age children can access their services as part of a new duty of care to be enforced by Ofcom.

The government’s new online safety bill, published yesterday, stated that enforcing terms and conditions on minimum age thresholds would be included in plans to regulate social media.

Children under the age of 13 are not allowed to sign up to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and those under 12 are barred from creating a Google account. WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, has a minimum age of 16.

Most social media companies rely on users self-declaring their age when they sign up. Ofcom, which will oversee the new duty of care, will have the power to recommend that particular platforms introduce age verification if they find they have failed to prevent under-age children accessing their sites.

Government sources said that Ofcom could be given stronger powers to force tech firms to carry out age checks on all users if they are found to persistently fail to enforce minimum age rules.

The move could require social media firms to demand that users upload ID to verify their age in the same way that betting firms have to check their customers are aged over 18.

All children would be barred from using WhatsApp under the move. However, social media companies have warned that it would also exclude millions of users — both young and old — from accessing social media platforms because many do not have the documentation required.

A government source said: “If under-age children are still able to access platforms, you have to protect them. If the only way to do that is age verification, then we will have to introduce age verification.”

Responding to the new online safety bill yesterday, a Facebook spokesman said: “Facebook has long called for new rules to set high standards across the internet. We already have strict policies against harmful content on our platforms, but regulations are needed so that private companies aren’t making so many important decisions alone. While we know we have more to do, our industry-leading transparency reports show we are removing more harmful content before anyone reports it to us.

“These are far-reaching proposals and so it will be important to strike the right balance between protecting people from harm without undermining freedom of expression.”

The Online Harms Foundation criticised the government’s plans, saying that they “overwhelmingly ignored” smaller platforms.

It said that ministers had focused on larger platforms, which are already carrying out much of what the bill demands of them. In a highly critical verdict on the draft laws, the foundation said: “This misplaced focus renders the Bill somewhat redundant. The Bill will also effectively outsource the role of adjudicating on what speech is harmful to Twitter, Facebook and Google — this is the duty of governments, not corporate giants.

“We fear that the government may not only undermine fundamental freedoms of the internet, but make existing problems worse.

“Overzealous removal of legal content also risks further radicalising vulnerable people — the government should ensure that any speech that is legal offline remains so online.

“We shouldn’t forget that the problems we are seeing online started offline. If the government is serious about tackling online harms, they cannot focus on the online world in isolation — we must confront the underlying causes for such behaviour also.”

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Social media users face age check under new rules to protect children

Source : Business Matters More   

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