Ofcom

Ofcom sets out its thinking for 2019

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…)

Government publish no-deal legislation for telecoms

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.

Broadband and mobile coverage sees continued improvements

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 updates coverage figures for UK broadband reach

Ofcom has published the first of its spring updates on the previously annual-only Connected Nations Report. These reports track the progress made in increasing the coverage and changing nature of communications infrastructure across the UK. A spring and a summer update will now complement the full Connected Nations report published at the end of the year.

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Ofcom finds the Internet is still Open in the UK

Last week Ofcom published its first report to the European Commission under the ‘Connected Continent’ Regulation (2015/2120) on how UK operators are complying with the new Net Neutrality rules. The report was split into five sections on; quality of Internet Access Services, safeguarding open internet access, traffic management, transparency measures and complaints and remedies. Overall, Ofcom found no major concerns although it did highlight some points that merit further examination. (more…)

Ofcom compares Quality of Service of broadband, mobile and landline services

Ofcom published last month its first report exploring the quality of service that customers from the largest landline, broadband and mobile providers received in 2016, and it was accompanied by an interactive tool designed for consumers. The “Comparing Service Quality??? report covers the consumer experience on reliability, performance and customer service. It found that most customers are satisfied with their service overall, though 13% of broadband customers lodged a complaint with their provider in the last 12 months, against 5% of landline and 4% of mobile customers.

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Ofcom publishes consultation on opening up BT’s infrastructure

Following the launch of its consultations on the review of the wholesale local access (WLA) market, Ofcom published today detailed plans to improve access to Openreach’s underground ducts and poles (known as PIA – Physical Infrastructure Access) to competing providers of fibre broadband. The proposed measures are designed to boost investment in the next generation of ultrafast broadband and allow competitors to use existing infrastructure to build their own fibre networks at scale.

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BT announces voluntary agreement to legally separate from Openreach

Ending a long period of negotiations with Ofcom, BT announced today its voluntary agreement to legally separate from Openreach. Ofcom confirmed that “it will no longer need to impose these changes through regulation??? as initially proposed last year and welcomed BT’s decision. This is a significant reform for the BT Group as Openreach will now become a distinct company with its own staff, brand and Board which will be able to make independent decisions on strategic investments affecting other telecoms providers.

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