British telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched a consultation regarding its plans related to the designation of the company, or companies, that will act as a universal service provider (USP) for broadband services. The move follows a March 2018 decision by the British government to introduce legislation establishing a broadband universal service obligation (USO), following which Ofcom called for expressions of interest (EoI) from companies wishing to participate, in June. The regulator has now confirmed that five companies have thrown their name in the ring, namely: Broadway Partners, BT, Hyperoptic, KCOM and Quickline Communications.
As per its original proposals, Ofcom argued that – based on discussions with providers and the structure of existing broadband network infrastructure – there was insufficient interest from providers in delivering the USO on a national basis, or in the same geographic areas, to run an effective competition. As such, it suggested a direct designation approach, whereby it would select and designate a provider based on the outcome of ‘objective and transparent analysis’. Having decided to move forward with this approach, Ofcom’s latest consultation seeks feedback on the proposed designation process itself, with submissions being accepted until 15 October 2018. Beyond that, the regulator has said it aims to consider wider USO aspects, including the identification of broadband USPs and the regulatory obligations that will apply to them, in a further consultation later this year.