Ofcom talks about broadband USO funding regulations
The Broadband USO is being run by Ofcom with KCOM and BT the two broadband retailers given the task of implementing it following the rules set by Ofcom.
Today sees Ofcom publish some more detail on the funding regulations (pdf file) for how KCOM and BT can receive compensation for delivering service under the USO. In short the costs of building more FTTP or adding more 4G masts can potentially be claimed back by the Operators.
The compensation is set to come from an industry wide fund and if we are reading the Ofcom announcement correct the rules are not yet set in stone or if they are there is no obvious summary, but there will be further work and legislaton required to get everything up and running.
The broadband USO is meant to be a safety net and for those who cannot get a download speed of 10 Mbps and upload speed of 1 Mbps. The way the system has been implemented this the 1 Mbps upload is considered met if you have ADSL2+ and the download sync speed is over 10000 Kilo bits per second.
In practice as KCOM has almost complete coverage with its FTTP product the BT USO site is the one people are worrying about. The process runs something like this:
- Visit https://www.bt.com/USO and check your address
- An initial check is done only against the Openreach network, Virgin Media and other networks are not considered
- If a 4G service over the EE network is likely to be available a 4G router is offered.
- If the 4G router does not meet the speeds once delivered then an external antenna fit may be arranged
- For those where a EE 4G service is not available then you should get directed to call the BT USO team
- BT USO team will do further checks that should look at alternate networks based on data from Ofcom, if an alternate is available they should highlight it at this stage.
- If no alternate is available then what seems to happen is that a FTTP on Demand order is raised by BT with Openreach
- Openreach respond to BT with the desktop based quote
- BT then makes the go/no go decision based on the costs to go ahead. If the quote is below £3,400 then it should be a simple go for the order and FTTP will be delivered in around a year.
- If the quote is above £3,400 BT should come back to you with the option for you to contribute your own funding so that FTTP can be installed.
Some would say this is a reasonable request as a way to get FTTP installed but given the state of the initial checks they way it has been designed and implemented by the mixture of BT and Ofcom means that lots of people who are not aware of what networks are available in their area will see BT Group as the only solution.
The Ofcom paperwork has BT estimating it will deliver 11,000 to 16,000 connections using FTTP that are under the £3,400 threshold, which sounds good but when Ofcom estimates there are 610,000 premises with access to a USO level service using fixed line services the numbers look very small. Things look better once you take into account fixed wireless access and 4G options as the number drops to 189,000.
We recommend if you are considering the broadband USO as way of getting decent broadband (decent broadband is defined by Ofcom as over 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up) that you do an initial check with our full postcode checker that will highlight the majority of the different infrastructures that are available. Of course a postcode check will not be 100% correct, but even address level checking while better is not a 100% solution given the pace of change and the scope for errors going unnoticed when dealing with over 30 million addresses.
We suspect that the problems of being forced to be at home for weeks and the difficulties of managing a family trying to use sub 10 Mbps connectiivty where mobile signals are non existent too is going to move slow broadband quickly up the political agenda. We believe BT is meant to be pro-actively contacting those who are eligible for the USO and we would encourage BT to identify those that will be able to get FTTP via the USO so that work can be started as soon as possible. The numbers may be small but change for those who say they would like it will be immense even if they only sign up for the entry level 40 Mbps FTTP service.