Celebrating staff across the independent network providers sector, for going above and beyond the call of duty, to ensure broadband connectivity continues throughout the COVID-19 lockdown measures.
When the UK went into lockdown earlier this year demand for broadband usage (especially from home) rose significantly. Yet despite major traffic increases (of up to 60 percent during weekdays) speeds and latency have remained stable. As highlighted by the INCA-Point Topic report earlier this year, the UK’s independent operators are estimated to have 476,000 live connections – showing the scale of families, individuals and businesses that have relied on the networks during lockdown.
INCA would like to say thanks to everyone working for independent network providers who have helped to keep Britain running during lockdown. See below for some inspirational stories of those who have been going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure broadband connectivity continues throughout the COVID-19 lockdown measures.
We want to hear more stories from across the sector to recognise the important work being done. We welcome contributions from across the sector. If you know of people who deserve to be called a #connectivitychampion email email@example.com and please like and share all our stories across INCA’s social media.
Maurice Byfield, Installation & Repair Engineer at Community Fibre
- What is your role in maintaining the network and supporting customers during COVID-19? I am an installation & repair Engineer. My role is to provide technical assistance to our customers.
- Has your role changed since the lockdown? If so, how? Since the lockdown, I am focusing more on repairs than installs. I also adjusted my way of working to apply the safety measures needed during this pandemic. For example, I call our customers before our appointment to check whether anyone in their home has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 and if that is the case, I then have to reschedule the appointment. And just as before the virus, I also phone them when I am on my way to our appointment to provide my exact arrival time.
- Why do you think it is important that you continue to work during COVID-19? It’s important because the Internet is as essential as water or light for our customers. Social isolation could have a strong negative impact. Keeping people connected to their relatives and giving them the possibility to work from home is so important. A customer who I helped recently posted a review on Trustpilot and she called me a "Hero of difficult time". That really touched me.
- What do you find most difficult about working during the lockdown? I guess it’s more to see the general fear the pandemic has brought to people in general. To allay their fears, I engage with our customers a lot over the phone before each appointment to ensure they feel comfortable about me being in their home.
- Can you tell us about your proudest moment while working during the lockdown? I am proud of every moment I spend with our customers when I carry out an installation or a repair. Recently, I repaired the Internet access for a family of five in South East London. The parents were working from home as well as keeping their three children entertained and educated. One of their internet cables was damaged. They were so happy when I brought their internet access back. They really appreciated our work and commitment in this difficult time.
- Has the response you receive from the public changed since the lockdown? Overall, I think it’s even more positive because customers really appreciate and value what we are doing and consider it as essential. I receive a lot of positive feedback which motivates me even more.
Julie Farrin, Project Co-ordinator, County Broadband
- What is your role in maintaining the network and supporting customers during COVID-19? I work as part of our build team, and am responsible for obtaining Wayleave’s from landowners to enable the ongoing delivery of our Hyperfast broadband network to rural communities in Essex.
- Has your role changed since the lockdown? If so, how? In a lot of ways the role itself hasn’t changed, rather it’s just evolved. Whereas before the Wayleave team would go out to speak to landowners face to face, we have had to communicate much more through phone, email and letters, there have even been a few cases where we have arranged virtual calls with them. We are also very fortunate to have excellent support from our Build Supervisors who are still working in the field, and are able to step in a visit some landowners if required.
- Why do you think it is important that you continue to work during COVID-19? The network that we are building will provide an invaluable service to residents and businesses; a lot of these communities have very limited internet speeds, an issue that has become even more relevant during COVID-19 where so many people are now working from home and frequently struggling with their internet connection. The fact that we have been able to carry on with our build will avoid any unnecessary delays to these residents and hopefully make their lives just a little bit easier during these challenging times.
- What do you find most difficult about working during the lockdown? I miss being with my team and the general camaraderie of working in a small office, but I think we are all incredibly fortunate to have technologies available to us i.e. Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Although we can all sometimes get bogged down with constant ‘virtual’ meetings, I do think in some ways its had a positive impact on communication within the team and the business as a whole.
- Can you tell us about your proudest moment while working during the lockdown? I would have to say my proudest moment isn’t so much a single thing, but how myself and the whole team have adapted to the change in our working environments, and despite all working remotely, I personally have been able to forge a much closer working relationship with the rest of the Wayleave team; we talk and collaborate far more than we ever did when working opposite one and other and we have even managed to induct and train a new starter into the team very successfully during lockdown.
- Has the response you receive from the public changed since the lockdown? I would have to say overall, the response hasn’t really changed, there are of course occasions where people want to ensure additional safety measures are taken if we are arranging site meetings/visits, but as a business we have very robust processes in place to ensure the safety of our employees and customers and once this is explained the customer is always more than happy for the visit to go ahead. I do feel that there is a certain expectation from the public that we should be carrying on ‘business as usual’, as the service we provide is viewed as an essential one, now more than ever.
Alan Redding, Customer Service Representative at Community Fibre
- What is your role in maintaining the network and supporting customers during COVID-19? I work as a Customer Service Representative, offering technical support over the phone to those who need assistance with their internet services.
- Has your role changed since the lockdown? If so, how? We have taken on some new staff recently, and I've now been training them using Google Hangouts instead of face to face. It's definitely not as rewarding as it could be in person, but we're making it work.
- Why do you think it is important that you continue to work during COVID-19? Access to the internet is a necessity to many people globally, as a means to be able to work or learn at home and stay in contact with family in these unprecedented times. We need to ensure that people get the support they need, providing all the help we can and we're proud to do so.
- What do you find most difficult about working during the lockdown? It's definitely not as lively at home as it is in the office and it is difficult working alone, but I think the hardest task is trying to stay away from the fridge. I can't stop eating!
- Can you tell us about your proudest moment while working during the lockdown? I had to deal with an elderly customer who was struggling to connect her tablet to the WiFi Network. Her son called me and asked me to help her mum, which I did. I provide her guidance over the phone. She was so happy to be able to have a video call with her son! Being able to offer support and even reassurance to those who need it most is something I take pride in. Staying in contact with family is important for these customers, so I'm always proud to be the one to make that happen.
- Has the response you receive from the public changed since the lockdown? Some customers can be a little more frustrated than usual due to the current circumstances, but there is a level of understanding that has come from all this. We're all in the same boat, so we're just trying to help each other as much as we can. And people are very appreciative of what we do for them.
Aaron Milne, Systems Administrator, County Broadband
- What is your role in maintaining the network and supporting customers during COVID-19? My role is to keep our internal services operational and to provide the same level of support our colleagues come to expect from the IT department.
- Has your role changed since the lockdown? If so, how? My duties have changed from offering on-site support in an office environment to supporting a remote workforce from the comfort of home.
- Why do you think it is important that you continue to work during COVID-19? I have worked throughout the COVID-19, even after I was taken ill during the first week of lockdown. I believe our colleagues adapted really well to working remotely but there will always be a need for support, and I am more than happy to assist wherever I can.
- What do you find most difficult about working during the lockdown? Not being able to identify and fix problems in person or being able interact with our colleagues face to face.
- Can you tell us about your proudest moment while working during the lockdown? Seeing the Customer Care teams come online after taking their equipment home with them. There were some concerns of mine where their home broadband wouldn’t support remote connections to our office network.
- Has the response you receive from the public changed since the lockdown? People are more willing to spend some time talking on the phone or on Microsoft Teams and catch up which has helped morale greatly.
David Moran, Delivery Manager at Community Fibre
- What is your role in maintaining the network and supporting customers during COVID-19? As a Delivery Manager, I am the field-based management of the past, present and future work in borough and council areas of London. I liaise between residents, housing associations and our contractors to ensure any work we do is carried out safely and to the highest standard.
- Has your role changed since the lockdown? If so, how? Whilst much of my work is business as usual, I have adapted to government guidelines of maintaining distance and wearing PPE as required. Coronavirus also presents fresh lines of enquiry from residents, which I am happy to address, whilst meetings between Community Fibre teams, councils or housing associations are held over video conferencing.
- Why do you think it is important that you continue to work during COVID-19? I believe coronavirus has identified more than ever that London and the wider UK requires full fibre broadband, with much of the nation now working and schooling from home. With so many high bandwidth demands, often with multiple simultaneous users, poor performing old copper technology can really hinder people's ability to do the things they need to do. With our full fibre network, we are playing a key role in bringing the internet speed needed.
- What do you find most difficult about working during the lockdown? The onsite engagement with residents and contractors is the most challenging. Maintaining social distancing presents a host of challenges whilst residents expectedly have a host of questions aimed at what we provide.
- Can you tell us about your proudest moment while working during the lockdown? I am proud to say since the pandemic began, myself and three others on my team have been providing a food delivery service for a charity called FoodCycle with the use of our Community Fibre vehicles. Many of the residents we deliver food to are elderly or medically vulnerable, so assisting those in need in this troubled time is a real honour.
- Has the response you receive from the public changed since the lockdown? Yes. Whilst the vast majority of the public are supportive and appreciate that we are carrying out our work, we have unfortunately had an increase of queries from residents approaching us with questions related to 5G conspiracy theories, because of videos they have seen on social media. We are now putting signs up where we are working so the public is aware of what we are doing and why.
Paul Pagano, Engineer, County Broadband
- What is your role in maintaining the network and supporting customers during COVID-19? Resolving issues and upgrading access points. Connecting new customers and improving existing connections. Also I have been looking after our subcontractors who have been installing the fibre for us by supporting them with stock and making sure the work has been carried out to a high standard also I have been working alongside telec supporting them also.
- Has your role changed since the lockdown? If so, how? Yes, we are doing a lot more external work but on the whole, it is still the same.
- Why do you think it is important that you continue to work during COVID-19? It is important as we are providing a vital service to keep customers connected. Which also enables a lot of them to work from home.
- What do you find most difficult about working during the lockdown? Finding different ways to complete normal tasks while socially distancing.
- Can you tell us about your proudest moment while working during the lockdown? My proudest moment while working in this covid-19 situation is knowing that once I have completed a wireless install the customer is so happy that they have internet and they can work from home which brings a big smile to my face knowing that the customer is happy and that makes feel great.
- Has the response you receive from the public changed since the lockdown? Everyone is a lot more cautious during this time but more desperate than ever to have the service.
Jeremy Dobson, Field Service Engineer at Community Fibre
- What is your role in maintaining the network and supporting customers during COVID-19? My role as a Field Service Engineer is predominantly Preventative Maintenance attending sites with a high risk of Faults and undertaking works to prevent any customers going down. As a team we also attend sites that have lost service "outages" and do our best to get their internet service back up and ultimately keep them in touch with schools, work and family/friends during this tough time.
- Has your role changed since the lockdown? If so, how? Our role has changed slightly, we're avoiding entering premises when possible and also ensuring gloves, masks and our 2m Social Distancing is adhered to but other than that our preventative maintenance and fault finding is continuing as normal. A common reason for outages is when scaffolders or roofers inadvertently damage the fibre optic cable and this is still continuing.
- Why do you think it is important that you continue to work during COVID-19? Unfortunately this pandemic has changed the way the entire country is living so if providing and maintaining a quality internet service is the best way to bring some form of normality to both employees and students alike whilst also keeping as many people employed that can work from home to do so, I believe it's vital we continue to work to maintain such an important service.
- What do you find most difficult about working during the lockdown? The many checks and processes we must constantly do such as 2m distancing, hand sanitising regularly, and applying both our gloves and masks in the correct order throughout the day to ensure our own safety, the customers and also the general public's safety.
- Can you tell us about your proudest moment while working during the lockdown? There isn't just one moment that sticks out and a lot of our work is preventative so just knowing that I'm preventing issues from occurring and ultimately keeping our customers online is extremely satisfying.
- Has the response you receive from the public changed since the lockdown? I think personally there has been a lot of misinformation regarding 5G circulating since the lock down has started. We've had a few members of the general public ask questions regarding 5G or why we are doing some work, but after informing them that we are classified as critical workers and we are providing fibre to the home they are understanding and wish us a good day. Ultimately the response towards us has been overwhelmingly positive and very supportive.