Whether the prospect of Brexit has brought you nothing but headaches or you’re itching to rid yourself of the daily strain of EU regulation, you probably haven’t yet considered how it will affect the deal you’re getting for your broadband package. The fact is, however, we have no idea over which areas the Brexit clouds will glower or over where exactly a Brexit sun will shine. Jokes aside, the odds of a no deal are high and beginning to cause everyone concern. Fortunately for you all we ever do is think of getting you cheaper, better broadband, so we’ve got this covered.
On the whole, most of the news surrounding the Brexit negotiations make for pretty grim reading - are there potential pros as well as cons to our departure? Would a no deal Brexit leave us slightly in the wilderness? Read on to see what we make of it.
Deal or no deal? Brexit odds are on the latter
With vote after vote resulting only in postponement after postponement, it’s beginning to seem that if we ever do cut ourselves free of all the red tape associated with freedom of movement and human rights agreements it will be without a deal. MPs can agree on nothing other than that our passports are the wrong colour.
With a million little things other than this unresolved, however, it seems unlikely that by October they will have a deal to please all. But what does it matter? Is a no deal outcome likely to topple the broadband industry any more than if we remain or reach some sort of agreement? To predict this there are a few things to consider - let’s go through them:
EU regulation - are we better off without it?
The UK telecommunications industry is currently subject to the prying claws of the European Union’s Regulatory Framework for Communications, which is intended to encourage competition between providers, ultimately resulting in lower prices for the consumer. One thing a no deal Brexit can’t guarantee is the continuation of this framework which keeps your broadband prices down.
This said, the UK was one of several countries across Europe that were instrumental in drawing up these regulations. You would think that any framework drawn up post-Brexit would turn out similarly, right? Quite possibly. Just when we might see this turned out, though, is anyone’s guess.
What happens to broadband service in the UK and what providers can get away with in the meantime? Well, that’s equally anyone’s guess. What you can do to safeguard yourself, however, is to get yourself on a reasonable fixed tariff while they’re available. Otherwise who knows what you’ll end up paying in a year’s time? Not us.
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EU development funding stops with Brexit
The EU is well known for its scheming as far as the internet goes. Its move to do away with roaming charges for within member states in 2017 (more below, but also potentially caput for Brits post-Brexit) is a famous example. It did not and does not stop at this - the EU has been investing heavily in digital infrastructure for its members, and for the 2014-2020 period the UK was penned in for hundreds of millions of euros worth of investment in this area.
Keeping up to speed?
Some of the most significant investment goes toward developing infrastructure for areas that still suffer from poor internet connectivity, which in the UK are still various. Schemes like these are often the only way for rural areas to see this sort of development and finally get high speed broadband. The EU wants download speeds of 30Mbps or above to be available to everyone by 2020, while Ofcom reports that only 54% of the UK’s residential broadband connections meet this target, let alone rural broadband.
In many areas broadband networks allow for maximum speeds of just 10Mbps and in practice deliver even less than this. Quite a way off the 1Gbps speeds available in some parts of the country.
How might the disappearance of these funding schemes affect you? Perhaps not at all if you live in or near a city, but if you live slightly more rurally you might find your download and upload speeds lagging behind the rest of the continent a while longer.
Prices to spiral?
Apart from this, the future for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the case of a no deal Brexit is pretty bleak. It has been speculated that ISPs will be one of the ten industries most at risk of being negatively affected if we get no deal. Both low-skilled workers coming from the EU and more educated workers operating in research and development will be discouraged from emigrating post-Brexit. The talent gap created by this will inevitably take its toll, particularly on the progress of fibre optic internet access.
On the opposite side of the coin many ISPs with a presence in Europe (such as BT or Vodafone) will be hit hard both by the ensuing uncertainty and the difficulty of operating across borders. Development will suffer even further, and the cost to these companies will, of course, be passed on to consumers in the end. Rest assured, it will be you forking out more for broadband deals.
No longer free to roam?
Away from concerns for home broadband, there are other ways Brexit will affect your internet use. A law passed in 2017 means that anyone with a European mobile phone tariff was charged nothing for roaming within other member states. This applies as much for mobile data as it does calls or texts, and your eligibility to keep this right depends entirely on whether the country leaves with a deal or not.
No deal has been worked out, so it could well be that following the end of the transition period (planned for December 2021) you are back to paying roaming charges when you travel in Europe. It could be that the decision is left up to mobile phone operators to decide whether to charge you, or that the UK will introduce its own regulations on roaming charges abroad. Nothing is certain, and it could be up in the air for a long while even after the shape Brexit takes becomes more clear.
- The UK is free to write its own regulations for the telecommunications industry.
- A set of regulations must be put together quickly to encourage healthy competition among ISPs. If they fail consumers will suffer.
- The UK will lose out on EU funding for broadband infrastructure, leaving rural areas behind.
- Consumers may once again have to fork out for roaming charges when they use data abroad.
You might have caught on by now that we’re pretty skeptical about this Brexit malarkey. Of course, we mean purely with regard to getting cheap, fast internet - we’re not interested in politics. For broadband service the outlook is bleak, and our advice is to batten down the hatches by locking down a decent fixed tariff asap. Take a look at our guide on the cheapest broadband deals for the full picture.
If you’re a business owner, you might want more specific information on how Brexit will affect business broadband. For more Brexit speculation, read our article about its effects on the UK energy sector.