Government sets out Strategic Communications PrioritiesSarah Shepherd
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.
There are four strategic priorities identified which are based on the recommendations of the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review:
1) World-class digital infrastructure
2) Furthering the interests of telecoms consumers
3) Secure and resilient telecoms infrastructure
4) Postal services
Within these priority areas, Government has picked out specific areas of concern. For example, allowing Ofcom to require national roaming as an option to address partial not-spots in mobile coverage ie those areas where not all four mobile operators are present.
The Statement also helpfully refers to the need for Government and Ofcom to work together to align the objective of the Broadband USO with the more recent intention of the FTIR to see nationwide coverage of full fibre.
Focussing on the needs of consumers, the Statement recognises that simply providing consumers with ever more information will not overcome the ‘loyalty penalty’ currently being applied via higher prices to the less engaged consumers. The Government foresees remedies such as pricing intervention and safeguard caps could protect the more vulnerable customers, as well as facilitating an improved consumer switching process to include cross platform movement.
Throughout the SSP, the need for Ofcom to work collaboratively with other regulators is referenced – be it for looking into opportunities for passive infrastructure sharing with other utilities or exploring best practice around supporting the more vulnerable consumers with the UK Regulators’ Network.
A consultation is now underway until March 27th with Government looking for thoughts on the strategic priorities themselves as well as how the role of Ofcom has been set out.