Universal Service Commitment Principles

The issue...

In 2009 the Communications Consumer Panel published research Not Online Not Included: consumers say broadband is essential for all, which showed that it would soon be essential for everyone to have broadband at home. However, at the moment many consumers, particularly in rural areas, are either unable to access the internet at all or only have access to ADSL services, which do not provide adequate speeds. In 2009 the Government published its Digital Britain report which, among other things, committed to providing everyone in the UK with access to broadband at a speed of 2MBPS. The Panel welcomed this commitment. However, the Panel was also clear that there were a number of important safeguards required if the Universal Broadband Commitment is to be implemented in a way that meets the needs of consumers. The Panel therefore developed a set of principles to guide implementation.

Our objective...

To influence the Government's implementation of the Universal Broadband Commitment so that consumers in all parts of the UK can carry out essential online activities in a reliable and consistent way.

Our current position...

The Panel would like the implementation of the Universal Broadband Commitment to:

  • be in line with consumer needs, as set out in the Panel's principles;
  • equitable across all four Nations; and
  • to ensure future proofing so consumers are not left behind.

 The Panel's principles are as follows:

  1. The Universal Service Commitment should enable consumers to carry out the online activities that they consider to be essential or will soon.
  2. The Government should define the Commitment in a way that ensures quality and reliability of service.
  3. The Government should help consumers to do what they can themselves to optimise their broadband connections.
  4. The Universal Service Commitment should benefit people in all parts of the UK, using different types of broadband connection where necessary.
  5. The Government should be proactive in identifying the parts of the UK that would benefit from the Commitment.
  6. Consumers who benefit from the Commitment should have a choice of service providers.
  7. The Government should ensure that the Commitment keeps pace with consumer demands over the years ahead.
  8. The Government should deliver the Commitment using next-generation broadband where practicable.

Relevant links...

Consumer Panel response to the final Digital Britain report (PDF 93KB, opens in a new window)

Anna Bradley's speech at the January 2010 Oxford Media Convention (PDF 61KB, opens in a new window)

Universal Service Commitment - Consumer Principles (PDF 147KB, opens in a new window)

Our impact...

Both BIS and BDUK found the Panel's articulation of the consumer interest in this area extremely useful. The Panel's principles influenced the development of BDUK's thinking and BDUK's approach, as outlined to the Panel, is in line with Panel's recommendations.

Future action to be taken...

The implementation of the Universal Service Commitment must continue to be monitored in order to ensure it is implemented in a way that meets the needs of all consumers.

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