Ofcom today published its draft 2015/16 Annual Plan for consultation, outlining its work programme for the next financial year.
Ofcom’s proposed plan of work for the 12 months will focus on six broad themes to help ensure good outcomes for UK consumers and citizens.
The six themes for 2015/16 are:
Ofcom will work to ensure competition in communications markets and promote choice for consumers.
This includes work on assessing how markets meet the communications needs of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). In areas where a market is not best serving SMEs, Ofcom will assess what can be done through a range of work, including the business connectivity market review and activities to promote improvements in network availability.
Ofcom will also work to improve the ease of switching between providers through a range of targeted activities. It is vital that consumers are able to switch providers easily in order to take advantage of competition in the communications sector.
Working with Government and industry, Ofcom will promote better mobile coverage and review the factors which could affect the future of the universal postal service. Ofcom will continue to promote wider availability of high speed broadband to meet the needs of consumers and businesses.
Ofcom’s Infrastructure Report 2014 identified gaps in broadband availability in both cities and rural areas, as well as for SMEs. The report also presented evidence that broadband of at least 10Mbit/s is required to support typical consumers’ use.
Even in areas where fixed and mobile networks are widely available, consumers and other stakeholders have expressed concerns about both the quality of service they experience and the customer service they receive from communications providers.
Ofcom will enforce the quality of service targets it set for BT in July 2014, and will review the quality of service offered by BT’s access division, Openreach, in key services aimed at businesses. It will develop new measures to report on the consumer experience for fixed broadband, and will report on the levels of customer service across the sectors it regulates.
Protecting audiences from potentially harmful content remains a priority for Ofcom. Next year, Ofcom will continue to work with other groups to promote the safety of audiences online. This includes working with the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to protect children and supporting the Government in developing a common framework for media standards.
Ofcom will also conclude its third review of public service broadcasting (PSB) next year, which will report on past delivery of public service content and assess how to maintain and strengthen PSB services in future.
Demand for spectrum, and in particular spectrum for mobile internet services, is growing rapidly. To help meet this demand, Ofcom is planning to award spectrum for mobile data services in the 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz bands and will take steps towards making the 700 MHz band available for future mobile broadband use.
Ofcom is also representing UK interests in international negotiations to agree how best to use spectrum effectively in 2015.
Ofcom will continue to respond to emerging areas of consumer harm by launching investigations into consumer complaints. Ofcom will also implement reforms of charges for calls to ‘080’, ‘090’ and some ‘11’ numbers, which will help to address ‘bill shock’.
Ofcom will also work to support improvements in ‘caller line identification’ to help reduce nuisance calls and address the potential for serious fraud.
Ofcom will continue to ensure the interests of each of the Nations in the UK are taken into account, across the work programme for 2015/16.
Ofcom has set a budget for 2015/16 of £117m. This represents a 4.5% real-terms reduction to Ofcom’s budget for the current financial year and a reduction of 33% in real terms compared with 2010/11.
In addition to the targeted savings over the next financial year, Ofcom will continue to work with other regulators to share best practice and minimise costs wherever possible.
The consultation on Ofcom’s draft Annual Plan 2015/16 closes on 26 February 2015. Ofcom is holding public consultation events in early 2015 in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London.
Ofcom will publish its final Annual Plan in March 2015.