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.
Ofcom has published various consultations on the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum auctions. The first sets out its revised proposals for awarding spectrum in the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz frequency bands. The second sets out the auction regulations for the bands. The closing date for both is 9 December 2019.
As of March 2020 homes and businesses will have the right to request a decent broadband service to their property (decent being defined as a connection offering speeds of at least 10Mbit/s download and 1Mbit/s upload). Ofcom has now announced that it will be BT and KCOM who will be designated as the universal service providers for that broadband connection.
Currently there are 620,000 homes and offices struggling to get a decent broadband service who would currently be in scope of this project.
From March 20th, those eligible will be able to start making requests for a connection to either BT (UK excluding Hull) and KCOM (Hull area). The providers, once eligibility is confirmed (which will include determining whether the property is due to be connected under another publicly-funded scheme within 12 months), must establish a connection as quickly as possible and cover the initial cost up to £3,400. Costs above this threshold must be paid for by the customer.
The recent update to Ofcom’s Connected Nations report – which provides information on coverage and service availability for both internet and mobile phones – reveals that ultrafast broadband speeds (defined as download speeds over 300Mbit/s) are now available to properties in just over half the country. Superfast speeds of at least 30Mbit/s have reached 95% of UK premises and full-fibre broadband has risen a percentage point to 7% coverage, or 300,000 additions in the four months since the last report.
Ofcom has published its work plan for 2019/2020 laying out its priorities and projects for the coming financial year following consultation with the public and industry. The four main focus areas for Ofcom are:
* Better broadband – this will include the implementation of the broadband Universal Service Obligation and supporting investment in fibre though duct and pole access – and better mobile – through auctioning more spectrum to boost rural reception and preparing for 5G.
* Fairness for customers – to ensure the fairer treatment of customers with fairer and clearer pricing and more transparency around deals availability. Ofcom will also be increasing the budget for its Communications Consumer panel.
* Supporting UK broadcasting – Ofcom will look to support regional TV productions and review the BBC’s news and current affairs programming and commercial activities as well as ensure that public service channels remain easily locatable in the face of technology developments.
* Online harms – reflecting the growing concerns around protecting people online and to ensure that audiences understand better the online world, Ofcom will carry out more work around media literacy and research into specific harms to include awareness raising.
Ofcom has updated its plan following the Government’s publication of its draft Statement of Strategic Priorities covering telecoms, spectrum and the postal service to reflect the priorities that were set by DCMS.
Whilst there are few surprises in the specific projects proposed for the year, with many ongoing and rolling over from last year, the first quarter should see Statements on the Broadband USO, the completion of the assessment for both the Business Connectivity Market Review and the Physical Infrastructure market review with the expected introduction of an unrestricted duct and pole access remedy.
Ofcom also references the work it is undertaking around Brexit and European legislation and how international cooperation with other bodies is expected to continue.
Ofcom has published a report on the media use, access, attitudes and understanding amongst children aged 3 – 15, and how parents manage this usage. The report revealed that whilst TV sets and tablets were used the most, TV viewing on a TV set is steadily declining, with consuming content becoming a more solitary activity and mobile viewing becoming increasingly popular. The reduction in TV viewing has been replaced for 3-4 year olds by spending an additional hour online, or gaming for 12-15s. (more…)
The end of 2018 saw Ofcom launching a campaign to motivate people to get better broadband deals and understand the market better. This follows Ofcom’s own research revealing that whilst 94% of homes and businesses have access to super-fast broadband, take up remains at fewer than half.
Ofcom’s latest research into Access and Inclusion has highlighted the different experiences that consumers are encountering in their usage of communications services. Factors such as people’s age, income or disabilities all affect the affordability, take-up and engagement with phone, TV and postal services.
Ofcom yesterday published their annual Connected Nations Report which tracks the progress on deployment and take-up of digital infrastructure and the services provided over them.
The headline stats are that superfast (30Mbit/s) fixed connectivity is up 3 points to 94% of homes and businesses from last year, with 4G coverage from at least one operator up to 91% of the UK’s landmass. This is steady rather than spectacular progress, as you would expect at this stage of the network deployments. Full Fibre connections, a key focus for Government policy following the FTIR, now stands at 6% of premises.
Around 2% of UK premises still cannot currently access broadband services offering a 10 Mbit/s download – the threshold below which the Universal Service Obligation (USO) would kick in. This has halved in the last year and Ofcom will be hoping to see continued progress in 2019 in order to reduce the target area for the broadband USO which will come into effect next year. (more…)
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.
Ofcom this week published its Proposed Annual Plan 2019/ 20 Making Communications work for everyone. The final plan will be published in March 2019 following consultation which will run until February 8th.
Priorities will be focused around ensuring universal availability for both broadband and mobile coverage; looking to strengthen public service broadcasting; protecting consumers against unfair pricing; and investigating the scope for regulation of harmful online content.
2019 will see Ofcom designate broadband Universal Service Providers and set out the conditions that will apply to them in accordance with the legislation laid earlier this year providing for access to high speed broadband being a legal right. Focus will also be on improving mobile coverage both indoors and rurally, and the measuring and reporting to consumers. (more…)
The Government last week published the Statutory Instrument (SI) covering the telecoms regulatory framework under the EU Withdrawal Act.
The affirmative SI will need to be actively approved by both Houses of Parliament and is largely technical in nature – correcting references or processes in legislation (eg Communications Act 2003) that were established to ensure a harmonized application of regulation across the EU. Naturally, as the UK will no longer be in the EU these are being removed.
However, there are some amendments which are more significant. In particular Government has decided that it does not need to replicate the EU Commission’s oversight role of Ofcom with a new third-party body. In the explanatory notes the Government explains that they understand the Commission’s role to be one of ensuring a standardized application of regulatory approaches across member states. Although most in industry would suggest that such an oversight body (rather than the Commission per se) provides a useful and cost-effective route to providing a challenge to regulatory decisions.
This goes against the recommendations in the BSG’s Brexit paper in which we argued that such a review process allowed for proper scrutinisation of decisions and helped maintain quality decision-making by Ofcom. It was assumed that the Competition and Markets Authority would be a suitable body, but Government has felt that this was unnecessary. Given that industry’s preference is to prevent a cliff-edge exit of the EU it is unlikely that these concerns will turn into full-blown objections but depending on the nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU it will be interesting to see how thinking on the regulatory framework develops.
In terms of Ofcom’s interaction with BEREC, full membership is restricted to the regulatory authorities of EU member states. Whilst Ofcom would be allowed to be an observer, Government has also made clear that it would be open to Ofcom participating further should this be made possible under the new BEREC Regulation.
Ofcom today published revised figures on broadband and mobile network coverage across the UK updating the Connected Nations report to include data from May this year. The figures show steady increases in the availability of both fixed and mobile services, with the number of premises unable to get decent broadband now under 3%. The Government’s Universal Service Obligation, the details of which Ofcom is currently finalising, will target these properties. (more…)
Ofcom today called for industry bodies to set out their interest in becoming Universal Service Providers of broadband – as mandated by the legislative order established earlier this year delineating the requirements of the Government’s USO. (more…)