Ofcom today published its 2016/17 Annual Plan, outlining its programme of work for the next financial year.
Ofcom's goal is to make communications markets work for everyone. To help achieve this, we have three main objectives: to promote competition and ensure the markets work effectively for consumers; to secure standards and improve quality; and to protect consumers from harm.
The Annual Plan follows consultation with a wide range of stakeholders and consumers, and builds on plans established through Ofcom's Strategic Review of Digital Communications.
Ofcom will implement the conclusions of the review of digital communications to help ensure consumers and businesses benefit from competition and choice, and have accurate and comparable information to navigate the market.
A fundamental part of this is creating the opportunity for large-scale deployments of more ultrafast fibre-optic networks. This will be helped by opening up and improving access to the telegraph poles and ducts of Openreach, the division of BT that maintains the UK's largest phone and broadband network.
Ofcom will consult on detailed proposals to bring this about as part of its Wholesale Local Access market review this year. Ofcom will also publish proposals to strengthen Openreach's independence by reforming its governance later this year.
In 2016/17, we will help improve consumers' and businesses' ability to make informed choices by providing better information about broadband, landline, mobile and pay-TV services. This will include greater detail on mobile broadband coverage, fixed broadband speeds and quality of service.
Ofcom will also continue its work on improving switching for consumers and will audit prices in the market, to help ensure all consumers receive value from their communications providers. We will also help improve the ability of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to engage in the market, working with industry to implement the SME broadband code of practice and ensuring the specific needs of SMEs are considered across our work.
Promoting competition sits at the heart of Ofcom's approach. However, where competition alone cannot deliver the best results for consumers and businesses, we make targeted interventions.
In 2016/17, Ofcom will continue to support the Government's plans for a new broadband ‘universal service obligation', giving everyone the right to decent broadband.
Ofcom plans to deliver a step-change in the quality of telecoms services by setting out more demanding service targets for Openreach this year; rigorous enforcement and fines for underperformance. This will be backed up by new performance tables for all providers; and automatic compensation for consumers and businesses when things go wrong.
Ofcom will also maintain its drive towards ensuring viewers and listeners benefit from good standards on TV, radio and on-demand services.
Ofcom protects consumers from harmful practices and offensive content on television and radio.
Nuisance calls affect millions of people in the UK, and Ofcom will continue its work to tackle problem - working with communications providers, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and other bodies to reduce such calls. Ofcom will also take enforcement action against those companies generating silent and abandoned calls.
Also in 2016/17, Ofcom intends to implement an agreement between UK communications providers to introduce technical measures that can help reduce nuisance calls, such as monitoring and blocking problematic call traffic.
Good quality communications services are critical to consumer experiences, citizen participation and the success of small- and medium-sized enterprises. Ensuring availability of postal, mobile and broadband services in rural communities can present particular challenges.
Ofcom is addressing these through a number of work areas. We are exploring options for extending mobile coverage, by seeking to include new coverage obligations on spectrum, especially in rural areas.
We are also continuing a review of Royal Mail, which includes the parcels market and parcel surcharging in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and Northern Ireland.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. Under section 3 (1) of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom's principal duty is to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters and to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets, where appropriate by promoting competition.
2. Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications, wireless communications and postal services.
3. For further information about Ofcom please visit: www.ofcom.org.uk. Ofcom's news releases can be found at: media.ofcom.org.uk.