Ofcom has proposed to designate BT and KCOM as the UK’s broadband universal service providers. It is also consulting on the obligations that should apply to them in delivering the universal service.
In March, the UK Government introduced legislation for a broadband universal service obligation (USO), which will give eligible homes and businesses the right to request a decent broadband connection. Ofcom is responsible for implementing the USO.
In June, Ofcom asked telecoms companies to come forward as prospective universal service providers, and received eight expressions of interest. It made its proposals having considered the following criteria:
1. Can they finance the delivery of the service?
2. Would they cover more than 5,000 eligible premises in each chosen local authority?
3. Would their proposed technology meet the technical specification?
BT, KCOM and Hyperoptic satisfied all three criteria. Hyperoptic subsequently withdrew its interest in being a universal service provider. The other companies – Airband, Bentley Walker, Broadway Partners, Quickline and Viasat – did not satisfy all three criteria.
Therefore, Ofcom proposes BT as the universal service provider across the whole of the UK excluding the Hull Area, and KCOM for the Hull Area. As this is a consultation, other operators still have the opportunity to come forward if they wish to be considered as a universal service provider.
The new consultation will close on February 13th 2019. Ofcom intends to publish its final decision on designated providers and their obligations by early summer 2019. It expects consumers to be able to make requests for connections from the end of 2019.