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How BT is dealing with the threat of Coronavirus

Since the first reports of COVID-19, we’ve been working on plans for any scenario where the spread of the virus may impact our customers and colleagues. Led by our Chief Medical Officer, we’re closely monitoring the situation and following international health guidance and government advice - including the guidance issued by the World Health Organisation, Public Health England and from the devolved nations.

Given our unique role in powering the UK’s digital infrastructure, this work is being overseen at the highest level within BT. Our dedicated programme team are coordinating with the British government, and with the relevant authorities in the 180 countries we support customers in worldwide. We’re working closely with our key contractors, partners and suppliers to ensure they can continue to support our services for consumers and businesses.

We’ve got well established business continuity and incident management plans and processes at BT, and we’re committed to maintaining all of our services to the best of our ability.

Protecting people

Openreach’s engineers and service teams play a critical role in keeping our customers connected. Our customers’ wellbeing, and that of our Openreach colleagues, are clearly top priorities for us. To find out more about the steps Openreach are taking to ensure engineering visits can proceed safely, please see:

https://www.openreach.com/covid-19-coronavirus 

Our network

We have more than enough capacity in our UK broadband network to handle mass-scale home-working in response to COVID-19. Our network is built to accommodate evening peak network capacity, which is driven by data-heavy things like video streaming and game downloads, for example.

By comparison, data requirements for work-related applications like video calls and daytime email traffic represent a fraction of this. Even if the same heavy data traffic that we see each evening were to run throughout the daytime, there is still enough capacity for work applications to run simultaneously. 

Dealing with potential staff absence

We’ve already implemented policies to protect our colleagues across the business. However, our scenario planning assumes a significant number of people may be absent from work due to illness or ‘knock-on’ impacts such as school closures, family care needs, or public transport concerns.

Should absence levels increase to the extent that continuity of service could be disrupted, we will prioritise 999 services, systems supporting our emergency services such as the NHS, the Emergency Services Network (ESN), critical national infrastructure and vulnerable customers.

Information for home broadband and mobile customers

Specific information relating to consumer customers of BT, EE and Plusnet, including data, contract and billing information, will be provided on BT.com, EE.co.uk and Plus.net. Customers should check these sites regularly for updates.

Information for our business customers

We are committed to maintaining all of our business services and, as outlined above, we are confident that our network is able to support the anticipated increased demand for home working.

In order to respond to our business customers’ needs and to help them stay operational during this period, we’re working hard to provide them with a range of technology solutions including: 

  • Short-term upgrades to their enterprise network capacity;
  • Enhanced virtual private network (VPN) connectivity to support increased remote working;
  • Extra conferencing and collaboration tools e.g. file sharing tools, to allow colleagues to work together as if they were in the office;
  • User support to ensure continued access and use of these tools; and
  • Call routing/forwarding solutions to divert calls to home phones or mobiles.  

We recognise that the situation is fluid and fast evolving, and that many of our suppliers will be affected to various degrees too. We’ll keep you informed if this is likely to affect the services you receive from us in any way.

We have appointed a dedicated team to identify critical items and suppliers and to manage key equipment availability where necessary.

If there are any potential variations to the capacity and service you might need in the coming weeks, please do let us know about these as soon as you can, via your account or service teams.

To stay updated on everything we’re doing to help you adapt to the current situation, head to http://www.bt.com/business/coronavirus

If you are a Global customer, you can find more information on how we’re supporting our multinational customers at: https://www.globalservices.bt.com/en/aboutus/connecting-and-protecting/remote-working-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak

Supply chain

We have a global supply chain and we’re working closely with our suppliers to make sure we’re jointly prepared for any impact from the outbreak on our business. We’re also working closely with our third-party resourcing suppliers to ensure we can maintain services but a local situation that affects our suppliers may impact our ability to maintain service.

Our procurement teams are monitoring over 700 critical suppliers, and most have activated their business continuity plans.

We’ve profiled our critical inventory and are actively working to maintain adequate stock levels to see us through this period of uncertainty.

Our people

We’re asking our people to remain vigilant and to protect themselves through strict adherence to personal hygiene measures – washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.

We’ve asked colleagues performing roles that aren’t critical to the operation of vital infrastructure or services to work from home. We’ve also placed restrictions on international and domestic UK travel, and postponed or cancelled all but critical external and internal events hosted by BT.

We have increased cleaning services in our buildings, with a particular focus on those with large numbers of employees or high footfall.

We’ll continue to follow the advice and guidance of the Government and Public Health England and adjust our policies accordingly.

Visiting BT sites

We are restricting visitors to BT sites to those who are critical to our continued business. If possible, all meetings should be managed remotely.

If you’re invited to a BT site we’ll need you to confirm the following information, consistent with the advice provided by PHE to your host prior to your arrival:

  • Have you or anyone living with you been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Have you or anyone living with you gone into self-isolation following NHS 111 online or other assessment
  • Do you or anyone living with you have a NEW dry persistent cough and /or a high temperature. .  

If you respond ‘yes’ to any of these statements we will politely request that you avoid visiting the site in order to protect other visitors and colleagues. Further government and NHS advice is available at nhs.111 or nhs.uk/coronavirus.

Digital Skills

BT Skills for Tomorrow offers a wide range of free resources and information aimed at helping people feel more confident in the online world. We are working closely with leading social change charity, the Good Things Foundation, to ensure people across the UK – especially older and vulnerable people and those in self-isolation – have the digital skills they need to keep up to date and healthy during the spread of the coronavirus.

With large numbers of people now practising social distancing, self-isolation or confined to their homes, it is more important than ever to ensure that those with low or no digital skills can keep in touch with family and friends and access vital health services. We are sharing the Good Things Foundation’s resources via our pioneering Skills for Tomorrow portal, helping people build their digital skills and work online effectively wherever they are, through our partnerships with organisations such as LinkedIn Learning and Google Digital Garage online.

The site includes key topics such as how to navigate the NHS website, how to access GP online services, how to make video calls, and how to do online shopping or banking, as well as engaging activities for children aged 4-11 which help to develop their computational thinking skills.