Eurobites: Liberty Global diverts $4M into COVID-19 hardship fund

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Turkey tracks the virus carriers; BT reveals pressure on emergency lines; KPN feels confident, despite everything.

  • Liberty Global, which owns and operates cable services in eight European countries, has set up a $4 million fund to help employees and their families get through the COVID-19 crisis. Half of the money will come from senior executives, including $1 million from CEO Mike Fries, while the other half will be contributed by the company. All 27,000 of the US-based cableco's employees will be eligible to apply for hardship assistance via an online portal. Liberty Global's various subsidiaries have already been taking measures to help customers through the crisis, with the UK's Virgin Media offering extra free TV channels and Telenet Belgium working with care homes to connect elderly people with their families through robotic virtual communication tools.

  • Turkey is to start using smartphone technology to track those diagnosed with the new coronavirus to make sure they do not leave home, according to a Reuters report. Anyone breaking quarantine will be sent a message on their phone asking them to get back indoors. The presidency's Communications Directorate said that Turkish law allows such processing of personal data without consent for what it calls "exceptional aims." Earlier this week the European Union – of which Turkey is not yet a part – said it was planning to draw up a set of common rules for how member states can use mobile apps to track the spread of the disease while not falling foul of the GDPR privacy regulations.

  • The head of BT's consumer division, Marc Allera, has revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic has seen the volume of calls to the UK's 999 emergency services number running at "New Year's Eve levels every day." As the Guardian reports, Allera highlighted the massive call volumes in an interview about the vandalism that had afflicted a number of mobile masts as a result of the mistaken belief that 5G was in some way responsible for the coronavirus. (See 5G malaise mounts as COVID-19 morons mangle masts.)

  • Dutch incumbent KPN says COVID-19 will have a "limited impact" on its bottom line in the first quarter of 2020. The operator says it has "entered the current crisis with a strong balance sheet" and "undrawn committed credit facilities." KPN publishes its first-quarter update on April 30.

  • Telia Finland has appointed Heli Partanen as its new CEO. She is currently responsible for Telia Finland's consumer business and since November has been acting vice CEO and head of daily operations.

  • Internet outages in the UK increased by 80% last week, despite overall global outages falling by around 10%, according to data from ThousandEyes.

  • The German Red Cross (DRK) has launched a nationwide chatbot service to answer questions about the coronavirus in collaboration with Future of Voice, a Berlin-based "agency for conversational AI," cloud communications service provider Tyntec and Parloa, which provides the dialog management system. The chatbot provides coronavirus-related figures, hygiene measures, as well as tips for handling emotional stress in real time.

  • Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, has found that almost half of UK adults have been subjected to "false or misleading" information about the coronavirus in the last week. The most common rubbish doing the rounds is as follows: drinking more water can flush out the infection; it can be treated by gargling with saltwater; and it can be treated by avoiding cold food and drink.

    Eurobites is taking a break for the UK's Easter public holiday, and will return on Tuesday, April 14. Stay safe, and try not to gargle with saltwater.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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