British telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched a consultation related to the UK’s broadband universal service obligation (USO), in which it has, among other things, proposed to designate BT and KCOM as universal service providers (USPs).
In March 2018 the UK government introduced legislation for a Broadband USO, following which, in June Ofcom called for applications from parties interested in becoming USPs. Having subsequently consulted on the regulations for designating USPs in September, the watchdog’s latest consultation now seeks to set out it decision to directly designate the USPs to deliver the USO, while also detailing its proposals on the providers it aims to designate, and the conditions that should apply for delivering USO connections and services.
Eight expressions of interest (EoI) were submitted for the USP roles, although only three firms – BT, KCOM and Hyperoptic – were confirmed to have met the minimum criteria, with Hyperoptic subsequently withdrawing its interest. As a result, Ofcom has proposed that BT will be the USP across the whole of the UK excluding the Hull Area, with KCOM acting as the USP in Hull.
The other proposals include a number of criteria: USPs will have 30 days to determine whether a consumer is eligible for the USO; USPs will have twelve months to deliver connections to eligible consumers; and USO customers should pay the same price as the rest of the UK and this should not be more than GBP45 (USD50.5) per month.
Comments on the proposals can be submitted ahead of 13 February 2019 deadline, and Ofcom has said it intends to publish a statement by ‘early summer 2019’ on designating USPs and the final universal service conditions. In addition, the regulator has proposed an implementation period to enable the USPs to make necessary preparations for the USO, and as such it says it expects consumers to be able to make requests for connections from the end of 2019.