Consultations

Ofcom publications

Consultation: Copper retirement – process for determining when copper regulation can be removed (supplementary consultation to the WFTMR)

The consultation proposes to delay decisions about Openreach’s copper retirement process until after Ofcom has determined the outcome of the WFTMR. Justification is that Openreach’s fibre roll-out is still in its early stages and Ofcom would prefer to wait for more details on the Salisbury and Mildenhall trials.  The consultation period ends on 3 September and the outcome of the WFTMR is due to be published in Q4 2020/21.

Online Nation 2020 report

The main report is accompanied by a separate summary report and includes online behaviour during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some observations: In April 2020, the reach of education, health and government sites had all grown since January and users of news sites spent more time on these and social media sites on average each day. People used a range of sources to access news about the coronavirus, with BBC services the most popular source. Internet users in the UK spent a daily average of just over 4 hours online. With the proliferation of high-performance smartphones, mobile has steadily grown its share of online revenues reaching 52% of total online revenues.

Adults’ Media Use & Attitudes report 2020

Ofcom’s latest report examines adults’ media literacy and is a reference document for industry, stakeholders and the general public. It includes data on the digitally excluded:  Over the past five years there has been no change in the incidence of adults who do not use the internet (13% offline in 2019 vs 14% in 2014). Many non-users demonstrate a lack of appetite for going online in the near future: 77% say that nothing would encourage them to go online in the next 12 months, and 61% say they don’t currently go online due to a lack of interest or need. One in five state a reason either related to cost (19%) or difficulty (‘being too complicated’) (17%) as a barrier to their going online.

Research: Internet users’ concerns about and experience of potential online harms

According to the latest research into internet users’ concerns about and experience of potential online harms, 62% of adults have had potentially harmful online experiences in the last 12 months and 81% of children aged 12-15. Social media remains the most commonly cited source of potentially harmful experiences among both adults and children.

Ofcom’s proposals for stimulating greater investment in fibre broadband

Ofcom has published its first combined five-year review of Wholesale Fixed Telecoms regulation which maps out how it will regulate Openreach between April 2021 and March 2026 for both the residential and businesses connectivity markets (previously the regulator separately assessed the Wholesale Local Access Market Review of residential, and the Business Connectivity Market Review).

Ofcom’s four-point plan aims to support competitive investment in fibre networks and competition in gigabit capable services, ensuring world class broadband services are available to as many people and businesses as possible.

  1. Improving the business case for fibre investment. In more urban areas, Ofcom proposes that the wholesale price that Openreach charges retail providers for its entry-level (40 Mbit/s) superfast broadband service is capped to inflation. This follows a cut Ofcom made to this product in its 2018 review. Ofcom also proposes that Openreach can charge a small premium for regulated products if they are delivered over full fibre. Openreach’s fastest fibre services will remain free from pricing regulation to support the investment competition between network builders.
  2. Protecting customers and driving competition. Ofcom will ensure that people can still access affordable broadband by capping Openreach’s wholesale charges on its slower copper broadband services. Openreach will be restricted from being able to offer discounts that could stifle investment by its rivals.
  3. Taking rural areas into the fast lane. In rural areas where there is no prospect of multiple networks being built, Ofcom will support investment by Openreach which is the only operator with a large-scale rural network, by allowing it to recover investment costs across the wholesale prices of a wider range of services, reducing the risk of its investment. If BT provides a firm commitment to build fibre in these parts of the country, Ofcom will include these costs in its prices upfront. If not, Ofcom will only allow it to recover these costs after it lays new fibre. The UK Government is planning to invest £5bn to reach the most challenging 20% of the UK and is working closely with Ofcom on its plans for this.
  4. Closing the copper network. Ofcom plans to remove regulation on Openreach’s copper products in areas where full fibre is built to support the migration/switching of customers to the new fibre network. Ofcom will be transferring its regulation – including price protections – from copper to new fibre services.

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Ofcom consultation on proposed changes to quality of service regulation on Openreach

Ofcom is seeking comments on its proposed changes to certain regulations that require Openreach to install broadband connections within a set period of time. Openreach has developed a ‘Bulk Grouping provision capability’ in coordination with its wholesale customers that will allow providers to upgrade their standard broadband customers to superfast and ultrafast products in batches. (more…)

Universal Service Providers

Ofcom’s proposed funding regulations for Universal Service Providers

Earlier this year, BT and KCOM were designated as Universal Service Providers (USP) to deliver broadband universal service connections and services. Ofcom set the conditions that will apply to them. From 20 March 2020 consumers will be able to request these services. The USPs are entitled to claim any costs that would not be appropriate for them to cover. Ofcom is proposing rules and procedures for these providers in order to make a claim for any unfair cost burden involved. The procedures would apply to the broadband USO, but also to any other universal service obligations.

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BEREC logo

BEREC consultations are now open

BEREC has prepared a consultation document on the work done in BEREC and their 2020 workplan. Several consultations are underway on the following:

  • Guidelines on the Implementation of the Open Internet Regulation

Previously called the BEREC Net Neutrality guidelines and adopted in 2016, an update has been published with an accompanying consultation document. This includes mainly clarifications and follows the views of some stakeholders that the methods mentioned in the paragraphs 69 and 70 of the existing guidelines would not be enough for traffic identification and that domain names should be considered as generic content.

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Planning reforms proposed to speed up 5G deployment

Government launched a consultation on potentially amending permitted development rights for operators win order to extend mobile coverage and support 5G roll out. The joint consultation between DCMS and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government closed on November 4th. The BSG submitted a response.

2017 saw Government agree reforms to the Electronic Communications Code with the intention of making it easier and cheaper for communications apparatus to be installed, maintained and upgraded, following commitments from mobile network operators to invest significantly and reach specific coverage targets. Further Government reforms to planning regulations have followed, aiming to support expanding mobile connectivity. (more…)

National Infrastructure Commission seeks views on future of regulation

The National Infrastructure is looking for opinions on the regulation of the energy, water and telecoms sector – both current and future changes that may impact on and affect these industries. The call for evidence just published will support the regulation study that the NIC has undertaken at the behest of the Government in October 2018. (more…)

Government sets out Strategic Communications Priorities

The Government is looking for opinions on its draft Statement of Strategic Priorities (SSP) for telecommunications, radio spectrum and post – the first if its kind following its new power granted by the Digital Economy Act 2017. Once the SSP is formally designated, telecoms will be brought more into line with the other utility sectors, and Ofcom obliged to have regard to the Statement. (more…)

Broadband universal service providers named by Ofcom

Ofcom has set out its thinking for which providers should be delivering the Government’s Universal Service Order to allow for decent broadband connections across the UK. This consultation follows on from a summer request for interested providers to put themselves forward. As a result, Ofcom proposes to designate BT as the Universal Service Provider for the whole of the UK bar Hull which will be served by KCOM.
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Autumn Budget 2018: Austerity moves aside as discipline takes over

Today’s Autumn Budget announcement yielded few surprises for the telecoms sector. Chancellor Philip Hammond, in what should be the UK’s last budget as part of the EU bloc, revealed that £200 million had been earmarked for programs to drive out fibre networks rurally across the UK (starting with the Borderlands, Cornwall and the Welsh Valleys), in line with the Government’s ambition to see nationwide coverage of full fibre by 2033, with 5G by 2027.

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Ofcom proposes to legally separate BT and Openreach

In February 2016, Ofcom published its initial conclusions on the Digital Communications review. Much of the review focused on the need for Openreach to improve the quality of service it delivers to its customers and strengthen Openreach’s independence from BT Group. Ofcom have today set out their detailed approach for how to do this, namely, constituting Openreach as a legal entity within BT Group, stressing however that the option of structural separation remains open in case changes aren’t deemed satisfactory.

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