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.
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.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) was asked by Government in October 2018 to review the regulation of the UK’s energy, telecoms and water sectors
In February 2019 a Call for Evidence was published asking for opinions of where economic regulation has failed or succeeded in facilitating future investment needs, promoting competition and innovation and in meeting the needs of both current and future consumers. The study also considered the full range of potential implications of any changes with a focus on affordability and protection of vulnerable customers.
The Broadband Stakeholder Group publishes research by Oxera to help local authorities understand the localised economic benefits of full-fibre and 5G
Key localised economic benefits of full-fibre and 5G include:
- Local authorities can see up to 3.2 per cent increase in new businesses operating in the area. If reflected in business rates, a local authority could see an increase in gross revenue of over £10,000
- Existing businesses will see an increase in productivity which should result in an expected increase in turnover of up to 3.8 per cent per worker per annum
- Local authorities can realise direct benefits by being able to implement more innovative public service delivery whilst driving down costs, such as through increased cloud adoption.
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…)
The ONS this week published their annual Internet Access – households and individuals report.
The release highlighted a number of trends which we have witnessed over the last few years, not least that household internet access has largely plateaued;
With a high penetration of households and more people using mobile internet than ever before, understandably usage remains extremely high with 87% of adults using the internet daily in 2019. Whilst this includes the traditional demographic trend of younger people tending to use the internet more, 2019 saw the first year in which more than half of adults aged 65 years and over shopped online;
Of course this still leaves a significant minority of people and households who do not have internet access. The reasons for this are relatively well understood in terms of access to connectivity, skills and financial restrictions. However, the overriding factor for the ONS release was attitude/awareness with 61% of households who do not have internet access saying they did not need it.
This ties in with the BSG’s recent research on digital inclusion.
DCMS is consulting on its approach to implementing the key articles of the European Electronic Communications Code, which updates the regulatory framework governing the telecoms sector across the EU. The consultation document assumes a post-EU Exit implementation period until at least December 31st2020.
The revised Directive coming out of the EU intends to incentivise investment in very high-capacity broadband networks, support 5G rollout by promoting more efficient spectrum management, and protect and engage consumers. Internet phone and messaging services will be brought for the first time into scope of telecoms regulation.
The Government sets out three options for transposition of articles that potentially make substantive changes to access and investment incentives, radio spectrum, consumer protection and universal service obligations. These options include maintain the status quo, transposing the minimum requirements or adopting an alternative approach to transposition.
Throughout the consultation the Government seeks to ensure that the strategic goals set out in its FTIR remain consistent with regulatory changes from the transposition. The closing date is September 10th.
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.
Apprenticeship and Skills Minister Anne Milton has launched new qualifications designed to help the 1 in 5 adults currently with no or low basic digital skills learn essential digital skills and gain confidence being online.
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.