Also in this roundup: Virgin Media intros "essential" plan; Italy moves on broadband network; South Carolina plans $50M Internet expansion; US pay-TV subs drop.
BT-backed Openreach made a splash this week as it went below sea level to reconnect two households on a tiny Scottish island that had its connection cut off when "curious campers tugged up a subsea cable on the beach at Balmaha, Loch Lomond." Openreach engineer John McConnell, who happens to be a trained diver, put on a wetsuit, snorkel and flippers to survey and repair the broken cable. In an announcement of the scuba fiber feat, Openreach confirmed that the "armoured subsea cable has now been secured with underwater concrete blocks, to make sure the island – which is less than a mile long – stays connected in future."
John McConnell, professional diver and Openreach engineer.
In drier news, Openreach competitor Virgin Media announced its own efforts to keep the UK connected, with a focus on vulnerable customers. Offering a "Virgin Media Essential Broadband" plan, the company will allow existing low-income customers who receive Universal Credit to subscribe for a fixed monthly fee of £15 ($20) to access speeds of 15 Mbit/s. Virgin Media says there will be "no fixed-term contract length and no price changes while benefit payments are being received."
Reuters reports that the Italian government has given its blessing to a proposal for a single, national broadband network. Italy is eager to create a unified network open to all operators, wherein Telecom Italia (TIM) and Open Fiber merge fiber assets, in order to catch up with the rest of Europe on shrinking the digital divide. The proposal reportedly allows TIM to hold a majority stake while restricting its monopoly powers and could be presented to the company sometime next week.
A South Carolina electric co-op, Tri-County Electric Cooperative, has committed to a $50 million fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) expansion for its customers, which is expected to reach some homes before the end of this year. According to GovTech, the network will allow for speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s and pricing will be "comparable or below" that of other broadband services. Tri-County Electric says it is in "phase one" of the expansion and will be able to get service to some of its customer base by November 2020, with the rest of the buildout to occur over three years.
A new study from Parks Associates shows that 62% of US broadband households subscribe to a traditional pay-TV service via a cable or satellite provider. That number is down from 69% in Q1 2019. This comes as several months of stay-at-home orders and guidelines have caused the average amount of video watched per week per household to spike to more than 37 hours. According to Steve Nason, Parks Associates research director: "The spike in online video consumption, the decrease in pay-TV-only households, and the shift of pay-TV online are widening the gap between OTT and traditional pay-TV. Traditional services are looking to migrate to the cloud to get the best of pay-TV and OTT."
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