Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

EU consultation on universal service

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The European Commission has announced its long-awaited consultation on universal service principles in the communications industry. Existing rules at the European level, put in place ten years ago (although regularly reviewed since), seek to ensure on the basis of social exclusion that everyone has access to the public telephone network services and basic internet access. The Commission is now seeking views on whether these should be updated for the digital age – particularly concerning whether they should be extended to cover fast broadband service.

Hat-tip: Roger Darlington’s Comms Watch blog.

This is an interesting development for us in the UK, not least in the light of the government’s intention to have a separate and distinct universal service broadband commitment, on the basis of a minimum access speed of 2 Mbps, in place by 2012; whereas the Tories want to roll this up with their other plans for fast broadband services, letting the market take charge.

This is the first consultation produced under the EU’s new Digital Agenda commission under Neelie Kroes. The Connect Sector of Prospect will be responding to the consultation, which closes on 7 May, both directly and via our partners in UNI.

There are eight major questions on which the consultation is seeking views and the main principles under which the Connect Sector will be developing its response are likely to be as follows:

– the market is an insufficient mechanism to deliver access for all on the basis of widely-accepted principles of social inclusion

– universal service principles should encompass broadband internet access, on the basis of decent minimum speeds which are regularly reviewed to ensure continuing relevancy and which encompass upload speeds as well as download ones

– the burden of providing universal service coverage needs to be met from within a specific fund levied across communications service providers more widely: increasingly, this is likely to lend itself to broader definitions of players in the industry

– there needs to be particular attention to the needs of people with disability in terms of access to communications services.

If members have any comment on these principles, we’ll ensure they’ll be taken into account when we draft our response – so, let fly with a reply!

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Written by Calvin

03/03/2010 at 5:21 pm

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