DCMS launches consultation on broadband USO plans

24 Mar 2016

The UK’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has launched a consultation aiming to give the Secretary of State an explicit power to introduce a broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO), while also requiring local telecoms regulator Ofcom to review the USO as and when appropriate to ensure that it ‘continues to reflect connectivity needs’. The consultation follows UK prime minister David Cameron’s November 2015 announcement that the government intends to implement a new broadband USO which would give people the right to request an affordable broadband connection, at a minimum speed, from a designated provider, up to a reasonable cost threshold.

Alongside primary legislation allowing for the introduction of a broadband USO, secondary legislation will be developed setting out the scope of the obligation, including specific requirements and guidance for the design of the USO, which Ofcom would then be responsible for implementing. The DCMS is not proposing to specify a minimum speed, quality or other detailed criteria in its primary legislation, noting that secondary legislation can be revised more easily and is therefore ‘a more appropriate means to specify the minimum level of service’. The initial aim, meanwhile, is for the minimum speed for the broadband USO to be set at 10Mbps. Ofcom reportedly supports this plan, while the consultation paper also says evidence suggests that in 2016 the digital needs of a typical household could be meet with this downlink rate.

A public consultation on the matter will run until 18 April 2016, with the DCMS saying it is particularly seeking views from the electronic communications industry and both residential and business customers.