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What are ISPs and internet services doing to help during the Coronavirus crisis?

Total lockdown expected - can ISP’s and internet services offer any help?

Surgical mask, medicine and a syringe

Wednesday, 18 March, 2020


Coronavirus (or COVID-19) is a now full blown pandemic. With workplaces and schools closing many are anticipating imminent lockdown across the UK. It’s a scary thought! However one bright side is that a lot of companies are starting to allow staff (who can) to work from home. Duvet day? More like Duvet Week.

Self isolation.

In an attempt to contain the spread of Coronavirus Amazon and Google have asked staff to work from home. But what else are tech firms doing to help during the crisis?

Several UK ISP bosses are in self isolation after meeting BT CEO Philip Jansen, last week. Unfortunately Phillip Jansen tested positive for COVID-19 last week. The bosses of Gigaclear, Cityfibre and Openreach are all in self isolation for at least 7 days to avoid spread among staff.

Amazon staff are now allowed to take unlimited sick days this month. However only those in quarantine for the Coronavirus will be entitled to extra sick pay.

Last week it was confirmed a staff member at Sky’s Cardiff call centre had tested positive for COVID-19. In order to stem the spread of the virus they closed down the call centre immediately.

Wales has now confirmed 30 cases of Coronavirus so it’s a wise move on Sky’s part. It’s commendable to see companies treating staff health as more important than profits!

Tech support.

On a more practical level, Vodafone has started to allow free (no data restriction) access to NHS websites. This is incredibly helpful for the more vulnerable who might not have regular access to the internet. Remaining informed of NHS guidelines at this time is essential for containing the virus. Hopefully more ISP’s and networks will follow suit!

On a more lighthearted level, Disney has taken an important measure to ease Corona anxiety with newly housebound families. With studios putting back the releases of films left right and centre Disney understands streaming will increase. So in one of the most practically effective measures to help citizens, Frozen 2 has been added to Disney+ three months early!

Status update.

Last week the UK government met with Google, Facebook, Amazon and other companies to discuss how they could help. (In a meeting described as a ‘digital Dunkirk’ by one attendee.) The discussions focussed on how they could provide data or expertise to help the NHS manage a surge in patients.

In South Korea the government has created an app to monitor the activity of those in quarantine. Sounds creepy? Well it kind of is! Essentially they’re using the app to track citizens’ locations/ if they break quarantine.

There is no indication yet that the UK government is considering monitoring infected people via an app. Though it’s unlikely it would be introduced without much controversy / pushback.

While no concrete plans came of the meeting the takeaway is positive. It’s reassuring to know that the private sector is willing to step up and offer assistance to the government. Especially at a time when public services are at their weakest in decades!

Natalie Dunning author picture


Natalie Dunning is a freelance writer and Media Psychology researcher based in Manchester.

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