Openreach has announced it will be axing its broadband installation fees for Universal Credit households across the country.
The company, owned by BT, would usually charge internet service providers – such as Sky or TalkTalk – for connecting households to broadband, but it will now be saving an estimated one million people up to £92 by waiving the charges for low income households in their new ‘Connect the Unconnected’ campaign.
The Connect the Unconnected offer will apply to households that receive universal credit with zero other earnings, which have not been connected to the Openreach network for the past ninety days.
The Good Things Foundation, which works to make sure everyone benefits from digital tech, told the BBC it welcomed Openreach’s fee waiver.
A spokesperson said: “Access to data is a lifeline. Public services like universal credit are already online, and the pandemic has meant more of us are managing our health online through contacting GPs via video call, or making use of the NHS apps.”
Mark Jackson, the Editor-in-Chief of broadband news site ISP Review, also said the offer was ‘a positive development’ but commented that caveats meant the announcement ‘may only have a limited impact’ and it is yet to be seen how the savings would be passed on.
According to an Ofcom report published in July, two million households still struggle to afford internet access.
The report acknowledged that providers have made some improvements, such as offering targeted and affordable ‘social’ tariffs for customers on low incomes, though there is still more to do.
They wrote: “However, if the telecoms industry does not take sufficient action to address our concerns, we think there would be a strong case for exploring whether mandatory social tariffs would be necessary to fill the gaps in support, alongside other potential options.”
Energy bills set to rise even higher in worrying new prediction
Households will soon be faced with annual bills of over £4,000
Energy bills are set to rise even higher than previously predicted, according to worrying new figures released today.
Energy consultancy firm Cornwall Insight has forecasted that the average household will be paying £3,582 a year, £200 higher from the £3,359 originally predicted earlier this month.
And from January, the amount is expected to rise even higher to £4,266 before continuing to rise in April to £4,427.
The previous forecast for April was £3,729 – that’s a rise of £650.
Cornwall insight said it had increased its forecast due to the continuing rise in wholesale prices and an expected change in methodology for how the energy price cap is calculated.
Dr. Craig Lowrey, principal consultant at Cornwall Insight, described the predicted increase in January as a ‘fresh shock’.
He said: “The cost of living crisis was already top of the news agenda as more and more people face fuel poverty, this will only compound the concerns.”
However, Dr. Lowrey explained that without the more frequent changes to the price cap, more energy suppliers might be in danger of collapse.
He said the change in how the price cap is calculated was necessary to prevent suppliers going bust, but added: “Rather than critiquing the methodology of the cap, it may be time to consider the cap’s place altogether.
“After all, if it is not controlling consumer prices, and is damaging suppliers’ business models, we must wonder if it is fit for purpose – especially in these times of unprecedented energy market conditions.
“It is essential that the government use our predictions to spur on a review of the support package being offered to consumers.
“If the £400 was not enough to make a dent in the impact of our previous forecast, it most certainly is not enough now.”
Avanti West Coast slashes timetable and suspends ticket sales to Manchester ‘until further notice’
The disruption is expected to last for the rest of the month
Avanti West Coast has slashed its timetables and suspended ticket sales to Manchester ‘until further notice’.
The company said severe staff shortages caused by ‘unofficial strike action’ by ASLEF members is the reason for their reduced services, which are expected to be impacted for the rest of the month.
As a result of this, services will run on a reduced service, with trains between London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly being the worst affected.
Train frequencies between the capital and Manchester will be reduced to as few as one per hour, rather than the usual three.
There will be just four Avanti West Coast trains per hour from Euston travelling to Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.
Avanti West Coast said that many passengers have experienced short-notice cancellations in recent weeks and they hope the reduced timetable will allow them to run a reliable service.
Ticket sales and closed reservations have also been suspended from August 14th to September 11th ‘to minimise the number of people disrupted’.
A statement from the company said: “From August 14th, until further notice, we will be introducing a reduced timetable on our services. This is due to the current industrial relations climate which has resulted in severe staff shortages in some grades through increased sickness levels, as well as unofficial strike action by ASLEF members.
“As a result of the above, including the majority of drivers declaring themselves unavailable for overtime, our customers have faced multiple short-notice cancellations on our network which has had a severe impact on their plans.
“The reduced timetable is being introduced to ensure a reliable service is delivered so our customers can travel with greater certainty. This decision was not taken lightly, and we are sorry for the enormous frustration and inconvenience this will cause.”
The company went on to urge rail unions to ‘engage in meaningful industry reform talks around modernising working practices and developing a railway fit for the 21st century’.
Their statement concluded: “If you’ve already booked to travel with us from August 14th onwards and your train is cancelled, your ticket will be accepted on the Avanti West Coast service before or after your original booked train.”
Alternatively, passengers can claim a full, fee-free refund from their point of purchase if they can no longer travel due to the amended timetable.
‘Grease’ star Dame Olivia Newton-John has died aged 73
Grease actress Dame Olivia Newton-John has died at the age of seventy-three.
A representative for the Cambridge-born actress confirmed the news tonight, saying Olivia ‘died peacefully at her ranch in Southern California Monday morning, surrounded by family and friends’.
Her death comes after a thirty-year-long battle with breast cancer.
Her husband John Easterling confirmed the news in a Facebook post on her official page, writing: “Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends.
“We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.
“Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over thirty years sharing her journey with breast cancer.
“Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer.
“In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made in her memory to the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund (ONJFoundationFund.org).
“Olivia is survived by her husband John Easterling; daughter Chloe Lattanzi; sister Sarah Newton-John; brother Toby Newton-John; nieces and nephews Tottie, Fiona and Brett Goldsmith; Emerson, Charlie, Zac, Jeremy, Randall, and Pierz Newton-John; Jude Newton-Stock, Layla Lee; Kira and Tasha Edelstein; and Brin and Valerie Hall.”
Olivia was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and again in 2013, though she chose to keep her diagnosis private the second time around.
When she was diagnosed for the third time in 2018, she was informed the cancer had spread to the base of her spine. However, she remained optimistic and was determined to beat the disease with the help of her husband.