Universal Service Obligation

Ofcom publishes its 2019/2020 Work Plan

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.

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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Goals for a Gigabit Europe

A WIK conference held last week in Brussels sought to examine the likely impact of the recently agreed EU Electronic Communications Code especially as regards the EU’s goal to be a Gigabit society with greater fibre deployment, in line with the UK’s ambition to see nationwide full fibre roll out by 2033. The Code once fully adopted will have a two year time frame before the new rules will apply across Europe.

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Chancellor puts full fibre at heart of post-Brexit Britain

Addressing the CBI Annual Dinner last night, Chancellor Philip Hammond put full fibre infrastructure at the heart of his vision for a post- Brexit Britain leading the world in innovation. Pledging not only to deliver full fibre connections to 15 million premises by 2025, he also committed “to deliver a nationwide full-fibre to the premises network by 2033”.

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Is there a bigger role for satellite in the UK broadband market?

Satellite broadband hasn’t really taken off in the UK in the way that we might have expected it would 10-15 years ago. There are many reasons for this, both technical (latency issues affecting video calling and gaming applications and the potential for weather related outages) and economic (expensive terminal equipment and relatively high ongoing data costs).

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Towards near universal superfast broadband coverage

The Government announced an additional public fund of a total of £645 million which will further extend superfast broadband coverage to 98% of UK premises by 2020. This is an update to figures released towards the end of December 2016, indicating that a total of £440 million would help reach premises beyond the 95% target (by end of 2017) under the BDUK scheme.

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Universality and Value for Money: Government Options for Designing the Broadband Universal Service Obligation

The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) publishes report on the design considerations for a broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO)

  • Designing the USO is extremely complicated but the cost threshold for each premise is extremely sensitive
  • BSG research shows that a cost threshold of between £1500-3000 maximises the net public benefit to the UK
  • To maximise the number of premises that can get access to good quality broadband through the USO demand, aggregation is needed
  • Where the cost of connecting premises is above the cost threshold then an alternative measure should be made available

The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) has today launched Impact of a Broadband USO in the UK, a report commissioned from Plum Consulting to analyse the impact of the design considerations of a potential broadband USO in the UK. This report complements the technical advice produced by Ofcom in December 2016 for Government.

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£440m to be reinvested in rolling-out superfast broadband to 600,000 extra homes

Government announced yesterday that £440m will be reinvested in deploying superfast broadband connections to 600,000 extra premises. The cash boost is a result of efficiency savings (£150m) and the BDUK clawback mechanism (reinvestment of subsidies when people take up superfast connections covered by the programme – meaning that BT will be releasing £292m).

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The NIC focuses on 5G

The National Infrastructure Commission today reported back to Government on how to ensure that the UK can become a leader in the deployment of 5G and take early advantage of the applications that it may enable.

The core finding of the NIC is that mobile connectivity is essential and that the market, as currently structured, will struggle to meet these two objectives on its own and that the whole of Government must work with industry to deliver on them.

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European Commission unveils plans to create a European Gigabit Society

The European Commission published yesterday its proposals to achieve its vision for a European Gigabit society with ambitious targets from 5G coverage to access for all European households (rural and urban) to internet speeds of 100Mbit/s by 2025. Legislative and policy proposals include a review of the EU regulatory framework for telecoms, an Action Plan on 5G connectivity and new financial instruments as well as additional public funding for a WiFi voucher scheme that will benefit 6000 to 8000 local communities in the EU by 2020.

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Ofcom’s consultation on the broadband USO – responses highlight divergence of visions

Ofcom published last week a summary of responses to its April 2016 consultation on the design of the broadband universal service obligation (USO). The Government proposed last year to introduce a USO of 10Mbit/s available to all premises and tasked Ofcom to produce technical advice and recommendations to support its design. 115 responses to Ofcom’s call for inputs (CFI) were received, highlighting various perspectives and approaches to achieve universal decent broadband coverage in the UK.

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