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Broadband engineers and coronavirus

Broadband engineers and coronavirus

With the Government’s stay-at-home measures in place to stop coronavirus spreading, most of us are spending a lot of time indoors, using WiFi.

Many broadband providers are prioritising only essential works, to minimise the amount of in-home work engineers need to do, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know.

Holly Niblett
From the Digital team
minute read
posted 31 MARCH 2020

Please note: The information in this article was correct at the time of publication on 31 March 2020, but, because of the impact of COVID-19, things are changing rapidly. We aim to keep this page updated, but check with your broadband provider or potential provider directly to confirm any details. 

If I have technical difficulties with my broadband, what can I do? 

There’s huge demand on internet providers at the moment, with many of us working from home and relying on WiFi to keep us entertained and connected. It means you might have to be a little more patient with your broadband connection.

Openreach, which provides services for BT, Plusnet, Now Broadband, TalkTalk, Sky, EE and The Post Office, has some Broadband self-help tips for checks you can do yourself at home.

However, if you’re still having issues or think you’ve got serious technical problems, contact your broadband provider as you would normally, either online or by phone. Be aware though, that call centres might be very busy.

Will my broadband supplier be able to send an engineer out? 

Openreach engineers will fix issues from the exchange point or outside the property.

The company’s guidance to engineers is not to do any work inside a property, unless it would mean a vulnerable customer would be left with no connection. Only in those situations could they be allowed to enter the property. For more details, visit the Openreach website.

For new customers, Virgin and Hyperoptic are still allowing engineers into homes in certain situations. However, they are assessing risks beforehand and taking social distancing precautions.

Virgin Media are sending out free self-install packs where possible, so you might not need an engineer to get set up.

Will an engineer need to come into my home? 

Fortunately, because Openreach have a large network of telephone exchanges and street cabinets, a lot of maintenance and engineering work can be done outside. This means your provider may send an engineer to you and they may be able to fix the problem without coming inside. However, you’ll need to check with your provider to see if they’d need to come in to carry out the work, and whether they’d do so.

Hyperoptic says it’s assessing risks before undertaking any visits. It says it’s only carrying out installations if it’s safe to do so for staff and customers. The company is rearranging appointments for customers who have Covid-19 symptoms and/or who are self-isolating. For more information, visit Hyperoptic’s website.

Openreach and Virgin Media are continuing to carry out home visits only where absolutely necessary and have issued guidelines with new procedures.

Openreach state that engineers have been advised to try to avoid entering customers’ homes, unless it would mean leaving a vulnerable customer without a connection and if one can’t be provided in any other way.

Virgin Media are also prioritising essential work and have a procedure for technician visits:

  • Three days before an installation visit, and one day before a service visit, you’ll get a phone text to check if anyone in your household has flu-like symptoms or is self-isolating for any reason. If they have, the technician’s visit will be postponed for two weeks.
  • On the day of the visit, before the technician arrives, they’ll call you to check again and the same process will be followed. If your answer on the call is ‘no’, they’ll come in and carry out the work. For more information, visit Virgin Media’s website.

Can you switch broadband during the coronavirus outbreak? 

Yes, you can still switch from an Openreach to Openreach provider, or to Virgin. But you can’t switch from Virgin to an Openreach provider as that would require an engineer to come into your home. It’s also not possible to switch to a Sky TV package or a BT Ultrafast package, as again, an engineer would be required to come into your property.  
If you want to switch, it’s always best to check the situation with your potential and current provider. 
Also make sure you understand all about minimum terms and cancellation fees before you make the switch. You can read our helpful guide to switching your broadband provider

Will I be stuck without any broadband if I try to switch but can’t? 

If you’re switching from one Openreach provider to another, your new provider will organise the switch. They’ll let you know firstly if they can do it, and secondly when it’ll happen, so you can prepare for any downtime.

If you’re switching to a provider that doesn’t use the Openreach network like Virgin, you’ll need to stop your service with your current provider and start your service with your new provider. As such, you’ll need to contact them both.

If you’re just switching broadband and keeping your existing telephone line, you might only be offline for a few minutes. If you’re switching landline providers or different types of broadband, you might have a few hours or days without WiFi while the switch happens.

You shouldn’t be left without any WiFi for any significant period of time if you organise one provider to take over from another.

How can I improve my broadband if I can’t switch? 

If you can’t switch providers for whatever reason – your area doesn’t support fibre, for example – there’s a few things you can do to improve your existing broadband. 
You may like to read our guide on upgrading your broadband for home working for tips to getting the most out of your broadband and making home-working run smoothly. 

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