A new universal service broadband obligation for the UK

In November 2015, the David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, announced the UK government’s intention to introduce a broadband universal service obligation to the UK. Subsequent announcements have clarified that his ‘ambition’ is that the minimum speed is set at 10 Mbps for consumers and small businesses.

On 23 March 2016 DCMS issued a consultation on their proposed approach to implementation. Their proposal (on which they invite comments) is to introduce enabling primary legislation,  with details being set out in secondary legislation and Ofcom responsible for implementation. They are also considering a power for the government to direct Ofcom to review the USO as required in the future. That consultation is still open and runs until 18 April.

In parallel, DCMS wrote to Ofcom on 22 March, commissioning Ofcom to undertake detailed analysis of the key factors that would help inform the design of the USO.

On 7 April Ofcom published a (for once short!) ‘call for inputs’ to help inform their analysis. Interested parties have until 23 June 2016 to respond, with Ofcom aiming to deliver their report to DCMS by the end of the year. Ofcom are inviting comments from stakeholders on six topics:

  • Specification and scope of the USO
  • Demand for the USO
  • Cost, proportionality and efficiency of the USO
  • The universal service provider or providers
  • Funding of the USO and potential market distortions
  • Review of the USO

Finally, consideration of a broadband USO is also part of the European Digital Single Market review of the European telecoms rules which, absent Brexit, will also have an impact on the UK’s approach over the medium term.