The Digital Economy Act 2017 which received Royal Assent in April, enabled the creation of a new broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO), giving every household and business the right to request a broadband connection at a minimum speed of at least 10Mbps, up to a reasonable cost threshold - no matter where they live or work. Following this, the Government is consulting on the specific design of the USO which would be set in secondary legislation.
The consultation covers a number of interrelated design issues - the minimum specification, the technologies and providers that can deliver this, affordability, how it is funded and minimising market distortion. It also considers the review of the USO to ensure that it remains relevant over time.
To review the full consultation and document please click here
BCS' response to the consultation questions are as follows;
Q1. No comment
Q2. It is essential that all these measures are included in the USO. It should be remembered that advertised download speeds are often not achieved in practice and the industry has been widely criticised for making false claims in this regard. A government sponsored USO must not be subject to this failing. Where suppliers deploy copper-based circuits to remote locations the fall-off in performance over long distances is particularly acute and consumers should be protected from this.
Q3. This is a fairly simplistic summary and doesn't include the role of hybrid solutions eg FTTC and fixed wireless working together. Also, fixed wireless has different characteristics from mobile in terms of broadband delivery to premises. The cost and feasibility of mobile and other wireless deployments is highly dependent on Ofcom's ability to release new bandwidth for this purpose.
Q4. The figure of £3400 has been derived from Ofcom's modelling and then a decision on what level of overall expenditure is politically acceptable. Both are highly speculative, so although it is agreed that a threshold will be needed it is essential that it be kept under review in the light of experience.
Q5. There could be a level of local determination here, for example the devolved governments or local authorities could be given powers to subsidise the costs to meet local priorities.
Q6, 7 and 8. No comment.
Q9. All three means of demand aggregation (I.e. by communities, suppliers, third parties) should be allowed for and competition between aggregators encouraged. Time periods should be flexible but with the ability for local authorities to set deadlines.
Q10. Ofcom should be given maximum flexibility in this and be allowed to change the guidance in the light of experience.
Q12, 13 and 14. No comment