Consultation: Review of the telephony universal service obligation

  • Start: 09 November 2021
  • Status: Open
  • End: 11 January 2022

Under the telephony universal service obligation (USO), BT and KCOM are required to provide telephony services throughout the UK, including public call boxes. Use of public call boxes has declined substantially, particularly as a result of the increased availability and take-up of mobile. But for those without access to a landline or working mobile or in areas with poor mobile coverage, a public call box can be the only option for making calls to friends and family, helplines and, crucially, emergency services. So we want to ensure boxes that are needed are protected from removal.

The migration of the UK’s telephone network to Internet Protocol (IP) will also have a significant impact on the future provision of public call boxes. The old telephone network will be switched off by December 2025, so public call boxes will need to be upgraded and new equipment installed to ensure they still work after the migration to IP.

In light of these developments, we are proposing to allow BT and KCOM to remove public call boxes that are no longer needed under a strict set of criteria, which will protect those boxes on which people still rely. We are also proposing other changes to streamline the telephony USO rules.

Responding to this consultation

Please submit responses using the consultation response form (ODT, 51.3 KB).

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