A Universal Service Obligation
A Universal Service Obligation (USO) comes from EU and UK legislation. Its aim is to address a perceived shortfall in a service, or range of services, to customers. Since 2003 the UK has a USO for voice services, payphones and an affordable scheme for low-income customers (which we call BT Basic). We’ve been designated as the Universal Service Provider (USP) to make these services available across the UK (KCom do the same in Hull).
Over the last few years DCMS and Ofcom have looked at how to make sure there are affordable broadband services for everyone in the UK. This has led to legislation (The Order) that covers the specification, eligibility and guidance for a broadband USO (which came into force on 23 April 2018). We’ll work closely with Government and Ofcom to make sure the USO is delivered successfully.
This outlines how a customer can request a broadband USO connection at a fixed location if they can’t already get an appropriate service (including no planned public-funded intervention). Customers should be able to place USO orders by 2020. And the minimum criteria for an appropriate service includes a connection of at least 10Mbs and 100GB data usage a month at an affordable price. Also the cost of the connection has to be less than £3,400 (if not, the end-user has to pay).
Ofcom published a call for expressions of interest from CPs in being a USP(s) (June 2018) and a consultation on designation regulations (September 2018). There will be another consultation later this year on who will be designated as a USP, and the conditions attached to designation.
Here’s some key documents relating to a broadband USO:
- The Electronic Communications (Universal Service) (Broadband) Order 2018 (published on 28 March 2018)
- DCMS - A new Broadband Universal Service Obligation: Government’s response to consultation on design (published on 28 March 2018)
- Ofcom - Call for expressions of interest: Implementing the Broadband Universal Service Obligation (published 19 June 2018)
- Implementing the Broadband Universal Service Obligation(published 4 September 2018)