Universal Service ensures that basic fixed line services are available at an affordable price to all citizen and customers across the UK.
The scope of the Universal Service Obligations (‘USO’) is defined by the EC Universal Services Directive (‘USD’). The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry specifies the services which must be provided throughout the UK in the Universal Service Order (‘the Order’). The Order has been implemented by Ofcom through specific conditions on the Universal Service Providers (‘USPs’), BT and Kingston Communications. USO services include: special tariff schemes for low income customers; a connection to the fixed network, which includes functional internet access; reasonable geographic access to public call boxes; and the provision of a text relay service for customers with hearing impairment.
This is the third document Ofcom has published during the review. In a consultation document on 10 January 2005 (‘the January consultation’), Ofcom examined the current operation of USO and made a series of proposals for change. In a statement and further consultation published on 30 June 2005 (‘the June statement’), we set out our conclusions and asked for comments on proposals for legal changes to implement those conclusions. We received 50 responses to that document. We intended to complete the review by the end of 2005 but have been delayed by the need to consider legal issues arising from a dispute raised by providers against BT’s increase of the connection charge to BT’s Text Direct service. This statement now sets out our conclusions.