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CLA calls for USO to be enshrined into law
Wednesday 22 June 2016 15:46:27 by Sebastien Lahtinen

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses are arguing that the Universal Service Obligation for broadband should be enshrined into law, to prevent those living in rural areas from being excluded from access to affordable superfast broadband, with compensation for those not able to get the minimum speeds.

"A USO that can guarantee sufficient bandwidth will transform rural areas and must be enshrined in law. Only half of rural homes and businesses can receive a broadband connection with speeds of 10Mbps. That should be a benchmark minimum speed which evolves as technological advances are made. It may work in 2020 but could be insufficient just five years later so the USO must be easily amended to meet the future needs of the market place and the consumer.

If the current mode of broadband fails to deliver, the consumer should be able to explore alternative means of connection from fibre to satellite and wireless."

Ross Murray, CLA President

In particular, the CLA argues that more than one USO provider should be appointed to take advantage of the various technologies available.

The CLA's full response to the Ofcom consultation is available here.


Posted by TheEulerID 9 months ago
So how will this work in practice? Who is going to be legally obliged to pay compensation? If multiple USO providers are to be appointed do they all pay? Are there going to be any caveats, such as cost limits, beyond which excess construction costs are charged (as is the case with PSTN).

Unless there's some sort of central fund for this, I don't see SPs volunteering to be USO providers, and I can't see OR being exactly keen on being landed with sole responsibility.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) 9 months ago
@TheEulerID: Their response says 'through an industry scheme'.. in practice that probably means a charge added to everyone's broadband bills..
Posted by chilting 9 months ago
The one thing that frustrates me with the CLA and the NFU plus other rural organisations is that they can make a very positive practical contribution to improving rural broadband.
It is their members that own the sites for wireless masts, or the fields that fibre cables can pass through.
But they are not providing leadership or guidance to exploit this valuable resource.
Posted by CarlThomas 9 months ago
If they can get it paid for by government or private capital it's a win-win for their members. The members coin it on the wayleaves and the rural communities get the broadband.
Posted by chilting 9 months ago
Exactly, but they don't seem to realise that with a bit of guidance and coordination it is their members who hold the key to benefiting and exploiting their predicament.
All I here is the CLA and NFU etc. complaining that nothing is being done!
Posted by Michael_Chare 9 months ago
Telecoms providers already have right of access to lay their cables.

The more difficult questions are, who should provide a service at any particular point, how much should the end user have to pay, how should the provider recover any exceptional costs, and what speed should the connections work at?
Posted by Blackmamba 9 months ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
As the % rate is dropping on the USO (10 meg )on TBB results at a steely rate it is going to be near zero by the time it is passed in Law. As the market is open to all ISP.s land owners can pay for their connection to the network with help from DEFRA and others EU.
Posted by ian72 9 months ago
"the consumer should be able to explore alternative means of connection from fibre to satellite and wireless" - what is stopping them exploring satellite now?
Posted by JNeuhoff 9 months ago
@TheEulerID (Steve Jones): It is telecoms with significant market power who should mainly contribute to the USO, with BT probably being the main one, perhaps Virgin, too, though less than the former because Virgin didn't use public funds for building or extending its networks, unlike BT.
Posted by TheEulerID 9 months ago

The gap funding (and clawback) calculations were made on the basis of the contract and never included any 10mbps USO responsibility. It would have to be recalculated.

You also misunderstand SMP. It's not to do with USO, but for market regulation including price. Ofcom make a separate calculation on the phoneline USO which, conveniently, makes the annual cost to BT roughly equal to the annual benefit (it used lots of intangibles). They do the same for phoneboxes.
Posted by godsell4 9 months ago
Today is your last day to submit your comments too :
Posted by JNeuhoff 9 months ago
@TheEulerID (Steve Jones): I never said that the gap-funding included a 10mbps USO.

However, the proposal to base the 10 mbps USO on the SMP is IMHO a reasonable one, and most users would naturally expect BT to become a major contributor to a new USO fund. Smaller telecoms, or even Virgin, who primarily use their own funds to build superfast networks shouldn't be burdened too much by the new USO.
Posted by MCM999 9 months ago
@JNeuhoff "Virgin, who primarily use their own funds to build superfast networks shouldn't be burdened too much by the new USO." There you are again. BT only received state gap funding in some areas to enable faster broadband to be made available where it was otherwise commercially unviable. Elsewhere it is in the same position as Virgin in having used its own funds.
Posted by ian72 9 months ago
And it isn't BT's fault that other providers didn't get onto the framework for the BDUK work - EU rules and the bidding system precluded other providers not BT. BT did it as a purely commercial venture, it was not a "government handout" any more than any other government procurement.
Posted by WWWombat 9 months ago
If you are going to base the responsibility for a USO on an organisation with SMP, then it needs to be in proportion to the size of SMP.

It might be fair to force a USO meant for 5% of homes on someone with SMP over the other 95%.

But what happens when the company with SMP only has that power over 10% of properties? What od you do when 90% of locations has no SMP?
Posted by Blackmamba 9 months ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
If you look at the Surrey Results on TBB over the coverage to get 15 Meg the 10 USO meg % target drops this has come about by private funding (FTTC plus direct fibre ) and the high claw back being supported by customers on long lines where possible. With the money in the pot to be spent on the OMR what ever the result they will have received value for money..
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 9 months ago
@blackmamba So how much private funding has gone on in Surrey to produce this impact?

Claw back is nothing to do with customers on lone lines either.
Posted by comnut 9 months ago
TL;DR... But I guess it is like promising rain will not fall...

the whole UK is FAR too large...
Posted by michael_s_perry 9 months ago
I feel it is right to make the USO enforceable across the whole of the UK. Failure to provide the required speed should result in a fine for the individual operator or a monitored requirement to correct the shortfall at the operators expense.
Many rural businesses are seriously disadvantaged by slow broadband, as are some urban businesses in poorly served areas of towns and cities.
Posted by CharlesTrotman 9 months ago
As the person responsible for CLA broadband policy I want to stress that we have been lobbying on this issue and the need for a legal USO for well over 10 years. Our policy is, and always has been, to push forward universal coverage as we see this in the best interests of all. However, the proposed changes to the Electronic Communications Code, through getting away from market value, will actually see market disruption, leading to less coverage. The CLA will continue to press the case for universal broadband, both for our members and everyone else in rural Britain.
Posted by Somerset 9 months ago
@Charles - how do you envisage compensation being calculated and paid?
Posted by New_Londoner 9 months ago
The problem is that the CLA and some of its members have been the biggest inhibitors to the deployment of broadband (fixed and mobile) in rural areas.

At the moment you appear to want both high wayleave payments and compensation for lack of service, which seems greedy. Especially when you consider land values ought to increase once broadband is available.

IMHO the CLA and its members want to have their cake and eat it, paid for by someone else.
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