Queen's Speech 2016 pushes USO closer to reality
After the raft of news around the Universal Service Obligation in the last few weeks there is a bit more, as the topic made it into the Queen's Speech 2016.
"To support the economic recovery, and to create jobs and more apprenticeships, legislation will be introduced to ensure Britain has the infrastructure that businesses need to grow.
Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband.
Legislation will be introduced to improve Britain’s competitiveness and make the United Kingdom a world leader in the digital economy.Extract from Her Majesty’s most gracious speech to both Houses of Parliament at the State Opening of Parliament 2016
The USO will be part of the Digital Economy Bill that we expect to know a lot more about in July 2016, but key points from the briefing notes that accompany the speech indicate:
- Legal right to fast broadband and this USO will work in a way similar to the landline USO in that a cost threshold will exist above which a business or home owner may have to make a contribution. The Government is expecting to deliver the USO initially with a speed of 10 Mbps as a minimum and the Digital Economy Bill will give Ofcom the power to review this over time to make sure that the USO can keep pace ensuring a basic universal access.
- The Electronics Communication Code changes aimed at helping to get more mobile and superfast broadband infrastructure deployed.
- Simplification of planning rules around broadband infrastructure.
- Give Ofcom the power to order broadband providers to release data on customer complaints and speeds.
- Changes to switching processes to simplify them even further
- A right to automatic compensation when broadband goes wrong
Not all of this is new but automatic compensation is likely to please those who regularly have problems with their broadband, though a lot will depend on how faults eligible for compensation are defined and there may be an overall cost implication.
Alas while a lot of the changes are things people want yesterday, it takes time to get legislation passed and in the case of the Universal Service Obligation if it is to apply to multiple operators this may extend the time taken for to it to be passed into law, since different providers will have widely differing views. So while a target date of 2020 for the USO seems incredibly slow better it is better to take time to get it right, so that the USO can be useful for a number of decades.