Insights Ofcom makes changes to broadband universal service rules


Ofcom has changed the Universal Service Conditions to change the rules on how BT provides quotes to customers who have applied to be connected under the broadband universal service.

The Government introduced the universal service to give everyone the right to request a decent and affordable broadband connection, subject to certain eligibility criteria. Under the Government scheme, BT will pay the cost of connecting eligible properties, providing the cost is £3,400 or less. If the required work costs more, the customer can choose to pay the difference (excess costs). BT must take into account that costs may be shared among other customers who could use the same infrastructure.

Ofcom has now changed the rules to clarify that where excess costs are very high, BT should inform customers of the total excess costs of the shared infrastructure and gain agreement to cover these before delivering the connection. One or more customers in the local area can then cover the total excess costs of the build.

Ofcom says that the change will result in some customers receiving lower quotes, but the cost of connecting some properties, including those in the most remote parts of the UK, will remain very high. Ofcom says that it will continue to work with industry and the Government to explore alternative technology and funding solutions for these hard-to-reach properties.

Ofcom has also introduced the Electronic Communications (Universal Service) (Costs) (Amendment) Regulations 2021, making minor amendments to the Electronic Communications (Universal Service) (Costs) Regulations 2020. These Regulations correct minor errors that were identified in certain references and terminology, and do not affect the rules and procedures for assessing funding requests or the specifications or eligibility criteria for the universal service. To access Ofcom’s statement on the Universal Service Conditions, click here. To access Ofcom’s statement on the new Universal Service Costs Regulations, click here.