Broadband News

USO will be a legal right - BT offer rejected

The Government has decided and the BT USO proposal is no more and the Universal Service Obligation will be a legal right to request a minimum 10 Mbps (1 Mbps up) connection.

We know how important broadband is to homes and businesses and we want everyone to benefit from a fast and reliable connection. We are grateful to BT for their proposal but have decided that only a regulatory approach will make high speed broadband a reality for everyone in the UK, regardless of where they live or work.

This is all part of our work on ensuring that Britain’s telecoms infrastructure is fit for the future and will continue to deliver the connectivity that consumers need in the digital age.

This regulatory approach also brings a number of other advantages for the consumer:

  • the minimum speed of connection can be increased over time as consumers’ connectivity requirements evolve;
  • it provides for greater enforcement to help ensure households and businesses do get connected
  • the scheme will maximise the provision of fixed line connections in the hardest to reach areas.
  • places a legal requirement for high speed broadband to be provided to anyone requesting it, subject to a cost threshold (in the same way the universal service right to a landline telephone works)
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley

Update 11:30am We are adding this update to emphasis that while some media outlets are talking about this is putting a legal requirement on BT, but it is premature to suggest that just BT will be a USO operator, we can envisage a scenario where some areas may have multiple options and this what some of the pressure to reject the BT offer was around. Once more firm detail emerges in 2018 and 2019 we will be sure to cover it, we don't doubt that BT will have a large part to play, but its too early to say BT is solely responsible and there might even be legal challenges to Ofcom decisions.

The implementation by Ofcom is the next stage e.g. who you phone, how long is operator given to install service, is it a wholesale product, same or different pricing to non-USO services, is there a choice of USO operators, can you pay a supplement to get a better technology where cost threshold is breached etc and this is expected to take some two years so that would take us to 2019 and thus promise of a broadband USO in place by 2020 looks reasonable. Of course this does not mean that the 0.8 to 1.1 million premises affected (variable number since a lot depends on continuing superfast roll-outs) will be connected by 2020, just you can if want a better connection make a request of some unknown company.

On demand delivery of the broadband USO should mean that the most vocal and those most in need of a better connection will be on the phone within nanoseconds of being allowed to request the USO service, but we do wonder what will happen in in the first month some 200,000 premises phone up to request the USO service?

The Ofcom design needs to take into account factors such as if a home owner requests the service delivering to just them, when maybe 6 other premises would benefit but have not requested the service and design the cost threshold accordingly since it is highly likely that once other residents find out that something better is available and does actually work they will request and for one solitary user the only cost effective option might be satellite, but with six combined thresholds you might be looking at full fibre.

Rival operators had campaigned for the rejection of the BT proposal so there may be the odd mini celebration, but without any actual detail on how it will work that may be premature, since the USO may be a pure BT responsibility even when a legal obligation. Of course this is maybe what rivals are hoping and that working to deliver the USO in piecemeal on demand method will tie Openreach and BT down giving them a bigger competitive advantage in urban areas.

Our final thought, the inclusion of on-demand for the USO means tracking the success or otherwise becomes much harder, it is likely that speed test data may start to show a change. In short the legal route is a much safer one politically as once legislation is in place the politicians job is done and if hundreds of thousands still don't have 10 Mbps in 2025 then its that persons own fault.

Comments

I must admit to being confused
So once this is in place I can contact TalkTalk and demand 10Mb/s and they have to provide it or advise it is too expensive so you can't have it
So it is basically FTTP on demand under a different guise if you are too far from the cab/exchange for ADSL or FTTC to meet it

  • Oldjim
  • 12 months ago

If TalkTalk is a USO operator then yes, and no-one is confirming the technology at this stage but am hoping for lots of FTTP, as ever hope is different to knowing it will happen.

Ofcom may want to operate the line maybe under a USO ISP Ltd umbrella who then other you a number of options some people may get more options and some in most expensive areas may only get a satellite offer.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 12 months ago

If the pricing is going to result in costs the same as Openreach quote for CFP, the situation is not going to change very much because the charges are huge. The cost threshold per property is going to have to be set at £5K for it to have a significant improvement, or Oldjim is right, the cost to the consumer will be at FTTPoD rates.

  • godsell4
  • 12 months ago

The legal USO is going to have fair pricing rules applied, i.e. not dissimilar to existing services. So those pushing FoD and CFP as the USO solution today are just pushing an existing agenda they have.

So only those who proceed beyond the cost threshold would get hit with high install costs.

Ofcom will need to decide what is a fair standard install charge, £50?£100?£200?

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 12 months ago

"Ofcom will need to decide..."

You've hit the nail on the head. How often have we seen Ofcom snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Time and again they take far too long to come to what later turns out to be an ineffective decision

As for a fair standard install charge, what is wrong with a higher rent over the first 24 months such as one finds when buying a mobile phone?

  • 961a
  • 12 months ago

someone should speak to the minister http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42423047
[quote]Access means you can phone up somebody, ask for it and then someone has the legal duty to deliver on that promise.

"It is about having the right to demand it, so it will be an on-demand programme.[/quote]
Since the only company you can phone up is an ISP my earlier comment stand as either all large ISP's will have a USO or the end user can contact the USO regardless of the ISP you want to go with

  • Oldjim
  • 12 months ago

I think the bar has been set too low, I can see a 10Mbps connection being barely usable by 2019.

  • pipcoo
  • 12 months ago

@oldjim That somebody may not be an ISP but a USO selection service based on what BT rivals are calling for it may be this...

USO offers to your home...

1. Full fibre provider A, install £250, £45 per month for 100 Mbps symmetric unlimited
2. Full fibre provider B, install £50, £25 per month 10 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up unlimited
3. Fixed wireless, 22 Mbps down, 2 Mbps up, install £150, £30/month 200GB allowance
4. Fixed wireless 15 Mbps down, 2 Mbps up, install £150, £45/month unlimited
5. Satellite 30 down, 5 up, install £100, £30/month

Then you pick which one

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 12 months ago

On the bar being set low, it seems this was a reason for rejecting the BT offer, since the legal plan was to include an escalator that would see the minimum speed increase.

Also who knows the services actually offered may all be superfast anyway, apart from a few really hard areas.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 12 months ago

Given that the front end to the telephony USO is via retail ISPs, the vast majority of which use OR services, then you have to wonder how this is going to work if other network providers might fulfil the service? What non-OR reseller retail ISP to approach?

Then there's what happens if there is not demand aggregation. I would venture to suggest that virtually every one-off request for non-SF postcodes will bust the excess cost threshold unless demand aggregation is part of the process.

nb. any extra costs to OR will have to be included in regulatory wholesale pricing

  • TheEulerID
  • 12 months ago

Hence why today is as I said a rejection of the BT offer and nothing more than a return to the work to sort out all these questions.

An Ofcom powered super price comparison site for USO services might be the result. One site to rule them all.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 12 months ago

@Andrew

Fair enough in that we are apparently in agreement that all that's happened is rejection of BT's offer and has (roughly speaking) got no nearer a workable solution. Just back to square one with one option removed.

Incidentally, people keep describing the BT proposal as voluntary, which is fair enough, but not when they conflate that with the idea it wouldn't have been legally enforceable as a USO. It was my understanding that if adopted it would have been, and it was just the proposal that was voluntary (but subject to caveats).

  • TheEulerID
  • 12 months ago

Well I'll most likely be on the phone as soon as prices and numbers are announced

  • burble
  • 12 months ago

So I am totally confused. I live on the end of a long line my nearest neighbor is 500m away. No wifi and no mobile.
How am I going to get to get 10mbs. It won't be Fttp.
So will I be told again to 'piss off' and get satellite

  • nobroadband
  • 12 months ago

@nobroadband

There will undoubtedly be a cost threshold for the USO (as there is for telephony services), possibly in the region of £4k if rumours are true. Running fibre for half a kilometre would probably cost more than that, even if there was a fibre splitter near your neighbour. There might be the possibility of an infill cabinet closer by if it could service a number of households, but it would need demand aggregation. Or it might be that there is some central fund for really difficult cases. At the moment it is as clear as mud as to the details - and probably to Ofcom too.

  • TheEulerID
  • 12 months ago

Based on experience elsewhere, with no infrastucture monopoly the outcome will be something equivalent to a Universal Service Fund, financed by a levy on all network providers, that funds infrastructure costs incurred by eligible network operators. There will be an option to fund network upgrades for multiple premises but probably you will be told that individual upgrades exceed the cost threshold but you can wait until enough people sign up to bring the average cost within the limits. I would guess that FTTP will be a very small part of what is built under the USO.

  • gah789
  • 12 months ago

Great! We now have an entrenched minimum level of service that is unfit for the modern world. A bit like being told that a 2 inch sewer pipe is big enough.

  • Desmond
  • 12 months ago

@Desmond, not really, as the report says, the level of minimum speed can be upped at any time, one reason I believe the BT offer was rejected.
The consequences of any work will likely benefit many at higher speeds than 10mb, take myself, there are two likely options to get 10mb to me, FTTP or replacing a cabinet that was removed some years back. either would benefiall those at this end of village.

  • burble
  • 12 months ago

@Desmond: That's a little unfair when the status quo is "no, you can't have 100 kbps, it's dialup or nothing" - changing from that to "you can have at least 10 Mbps" is still a major improvement - and then the floor can be raised from 10 to 15 or 20 once it's established.

@nobroadband: do you have a phone line at present? I suspect the answer would be for BT/Openreach to add either a DSL repeater or an infill cabinet - that can give you the required 10 Mbps over 2.5+ km of wire.

For existing long rural lines, FTTP is not the answer - I suspect DSL is there long-term.

  • jas88
  • 12 months ago

The fair install cost will be the decider, if its something silly like £100, then the USO is meaningless as that wouldnt be much different to a normal commercial rollout threshold.

For this to be meaningful the install cost threshold would need to be much higher than what would be normally deemed commercially viable. Are ofcom and the gov prepared to be heavy handed on this, only time will tell. Also that 10mbit itself isnt particularly ambitious either. By the time this is all in play, everything ratified etc. 10mbit itself will likely not be far off from obsolescence.

  • chrysalis
  • 12 months ago

@andrew Was there any mention of a legal right to DOWNgrade ones service? Why? Our three children are now adults and now (finally! LOL) have families, homes, and BROADBAND of their own. I have just (finally [again]) LEFT VM mostly because of a) their crippled, poor excuse for a co-ax cable modem was needing more frequent regular reboots, b) their support quality is at an all time low, c) their DNS breaks (hangs) too often (and I'm not allowed to set an alternate DNS for users (due to (a)!). Been with VM since they first a

  • Martin2013
  • 12 months ago

@andrew Was there any mention of a legal right to DOWNgrade ones service? Why? Our three children are now adults and now (finally! LOL) have families, homes, and BROADBAND of their own. I have just (finally [again]) LEFT VM mostly because of a) their crippled, poor excuse for a co-ax cable modem was needing more frequent regular reboots, b) their support quality is at an all time low, c) their DNS breaks (hangs) too often (and I'm not allowed to set an alternate DNS for users (due to (a)!). Been with VM since they first a

  • Martin2013
  • 12 months ago

Once again, one of the main requirements has been missed - 'Unlimited'. There is no point in having 10/20/100/1000 Mbps/4G/5G/6G if you are limited as to how much you can use.

  • silverdove
  • 12 months ago

Very good point about Unlimited, that's the main problem with satellite/mobile data offers. The price point for USO will have to be carefully set and defined, as BT don't seem to take the no profit in the pricing element seriously.

  • brianhe
  • 12 months ago

I only get 1 Mbps if I'm lucky. Where does this lead me, just more excuses to deny me a decent service. I don't want 10 Mbps, 2 or 3 Mbps would be heaven.

  • biglwcus
  • 12 months ago

@silverdove - any level of coverage, bandwidth and capacity allowance are possible - the elephant in the transmission packet is always cost- someone has to pay and given the level of enthusiasm and interest from some of the major ISPs and network operators it isn't going to be them

  • Gadget
  • 12 months ago

The ispreview article (https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2017/12/uk-gov-rejects-bt-voluntary-10mbps-broadband-uso-goes-regulatory.html) also note as proposals "Additional quality parameters with minimum standards for latency, a maximum sharing between customers (contention ratio of 50:1) and a data cap of at least 100GB per month."

The last and probably the penultimate will not be within the gift of the infrastructure operator to provide or control, so splitting the responsibility of USO delivery between network operator and ISP, creating another opportunity for legislative entanglement.

  • Gadget
  • 12 months ago

This notion that the USO would be on some form of upward speed elevator raises enormous questions. Whilst there might only be 50,000 premises with sub-10mbps fixed broadband access potential by the time BDUK has run its course, if in 10 years time, that was raised to (say) 40mbps there might be 20 times the number of premises affected, and the financial implications would be immense the FTTC approach will have reached its limits.

  • TheEulerID
  • 12 months ago

@TheEulerID - seems to me that the elevator is really only viable if the agenda is 100% fibre to the home - which could easily sink any PSTN type costing mechanism, needing the levels of funding previously baulked at.

  • Gadget
  • 12 months ago

@TheEulerID: You need to come back to reality here! Do you seriously believe that in 10 years time there will be still 1 Million premises left with less than 40mbps speeds?

As regards USO: Surely the costs have be spread across all network infrastructure companies, and it wouldn't hurt to seriously cut BT dividends for a few years to help finance the USO.

  • JNeuhoff
  • 12 months ago

JNeuhoff "it wouldn't hurt to seriously cut BT dividends for a few years to help finance the USO." Why should Openreach or any other company make a disproportionate contribution towards the cost of the USO? Make a contribution yes, disproportionate, no.

It's about time that companies such as Sky and TalkTalk made a contribution rather than profiting on the backs of others. BT Consumer, Sky, TalkTalk and many others can afford to pay given how much they gouge their customers for Line Rental.

  • MCM999
  • 12 months ago

@JNeuhoff

An editing error as I meant 500,000 sub-10mbps premises to be dealt with after BDUK runs its course. Perhaps 30% (or approaching 10m) properties will be around the 40mbps or less due to cabinet to property loop lengths (and not being on alternatives). Maybe in the intervening period there would be a major uplift, but that's expensive. The betting is on the major investment being in the 70% who are more easily reached and serviced. The financial implications of the uplifts for rest are immense.

  • TheEulerID
  • 12 months ago

From whom do I demand 10Mbps? Say I want to continue using Andrews and Arnold as my ISP, do I have to switch to using someone else against my wishes to get the USO minimum? Can the politicians and their friends just tell me I have to put up with disgusting IPv6 and its horrendous charges or caps?

With so little detail I am left completely in the dark

  • CecilWard
  • 12 months ago

@CecilWard From who? Well that is what Ofcom has to figure out between now and 2020 when you can start demanding, i.e. the detail now needs to be worked out

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 12 months ago

Hi Broadband Watchers.
Over the last few days the Amber under 10 meg meg references have been removed across Surrey as the data has been feed in plus the 24 meg hitting 97.35% as Openreach roll out continues towards Dorking 99.7 % at 15 meg.

  • Blackmamba
  • 11 months ago

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