HomeInsightsOfcom announces implementation of Government’s “universal broadband service”

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Ofcom explains that the universal broadband service is essentially a safety net that will give eligible homes and businesses a legal right to request a decent broadband connection.

The Digital Economy Act 2017 introduced the Universal Service Obligation. Under the legislation, households will be able to request better broadband, capable of delivering download speeds of at least 10 Mbit/s, and upload speeds of at least 1 Mbit/s. These speeds will be reviewed over time, as the amount of data people use changes.

Ofcom has decided that BT and KCOM are best placed to meet the challenges of providing universal service connections. BT will be responsible for connecting properties in the whole of the UK except the Hull area, where KCOM will be the designated provider.

BT and KCOM have until 20 March 2020 to make the necessary preparations, including changes to their systems and processes, to start building these connections. From that date, people can start making requests.

When someone makes a request, BT or KCOM will have 30 days to confirm whether the customer is eligible. This will involve establishing whether the property already has access to decent broadband, at an affordable price; or if it is due to be connected by a publicly-funded scheme within 12 months.

Once confirmed, BT or KCOM will have to deliver the connection as quickly as possible. There are strict targets on how long they can take.

Under the legislation for the new service, the cost of providing connections to eligible homes will be paid for up to £3,400.

If the required work costs more than that, customers can either pay the additional costs or seek an alternative solution outside the universal service, such as satellite broadband.

Customers who are connected through the new universal service will pay the same prices and receive the same service quality as other broadband customers who have an equivalent connection.

The UK Government wants the universal service to be funded by the whole industry. Accordingly, in the autumn, Ofcom will consult on which other companies would contribute to a fund, and in what proportions, to pay for any costs that it would not be appropriate for BT or KCOM to cover. To read Ofcom’s news release in full, click here.