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.
Ofcom identified two alternative visions of how “decent??? universal broadband coverage can be achieved. On one hand, some stakeholders (predominantly the public sector, consumer groups and individuals) favoured a highly specified universal service for all, comparable to what is delivered commercially, with a preference for fibre technologies. On the other hand, others (mostly industry) see the USO as a safety net complementing existing public and private sector-led broadband deployments (BDUK programme). The latter group raised concerns over the potential for a highly-specified USO to distort the market and therefore favoured giving the market freedom to allow providers to set prices and offer differently specified USO services.
Taking into account stakeholders’ views, Ofcom will provide in December 2016 Government with a final report advising on the range of options for the design of the USO. Before that, Ofcom will publish its Connected Nations report which will include updated figures on the progress in the deployment of broadband in the UK.
The BSG responded to Ofcom’s consultation and will continue to play an active role in this debate.