Delivering the Universal Service Obligation (USO)

The ability to access a decent, affordable broadband connection

Since 2003, the Universal Service Obligation (USO) has ensured people across the UK have access to a baseline level of communication services. As well as ensuring access to public payphones, the USO means everyone can request access to basic phone and internet services; and that people on low incomes can request these as part of an affordable social access package.

In the Hull area, KCOM is the Universal Service Provider (USP). BT is the USP for the rest of the UK.

Since 2003, broadband has become an integral part of people’s lives at home and at work. To meet the changing connectivity needs of individuals and businesses, in 2018 the Government introduced legislation for a broadband USO. The USO gives people in the UK the ability to request a decent and affordable broadband connection from designated USPs KCOM and BT.

 

Get in touch

From 20 March 2020, KCOM is pleased to provide all our customers with access to broadband services that meet the USO specification. If for any reason you don’t think you’re able to obtain a broadband service from us that meets the broadband USO please contact us on 01482 602555. Our dedicated team of advisers will be happy to help you and support your request. Importantly, we operate by a Complaints code of practice [1].

 

The broadband USO

The broadband USO means that from 20 March 2020, KCOM residential and business customers in the Hull area have the right to ask us for access to a broadband connection that:

  • Provides a minimum download speed of 10Mbps and a minimum upload speed of 1Mbps [2]; and
  • Is available at a price of no more than £46.10 per month.[3]

In practice this means that if either we, or another provider, can’t provide a qualifying broadband USO connection within 30 days of a customer placing an order then it is our responsibility to deploy resources to ensure that connection is provisioned.

We are fully committed to ensuring that everyone in the Hull area has access to a decent broadband connection within our standard lead times (20 days) [4], and at affordable prices. Indeed, the vast majority of homes and businesses in the Hull area are already able to access one of our Standard Fibre Lightstream packages [5] which exceed the technical requirements of the broadband USO [6] and are within the price requirements:

150GB usage allowance

30Mbps upload speed

15Mbps download speed

£37.10 per month

Unlimited usage allowance

30Mbps upload speed

15Mbps download speed

£42.10 per month

 

In addition to our Standard Fibre Lightstream packages we also offer our Flex broadband packages that ensure affordable access to our fibre services for people on low incomes.

In those limited locations where customers are currently unable to obtain our Lightstream service due to an ‘exception’ [7] we ensure access to our Standard ADSL packages. While our Standard ADSL packages offer our customers access to decent baseline broadband services we recognise that our Lightstream packages are preferable. So, let us know when you are ordering your Standard ADSL services and we will prioritise your connection.  

 

Eligibility

Customers will only be eligible to receive a USO connection in those instances where they currently cannot receive a qualifying broadband USO service from any existing networks, if they are not due to receive such a service from a publicly-funded scheme in the year following their request, and the cost of connection is not more than £3,400 [8]. If the cost of a connection exceeds a threshold of £3,400 customers can pay the excess costs we incur or do some of the work themselves to help bring costs down [9].

 

Communicating USO eligibility

As we set out above, customers will be able to make requests for a USO qualifying connection from 20 March 2020. Once a customer requests a connection, we will first check whether we or an alternative provider can provide you with a technically qualifying USO service. Once we’ve established that it’s not possible to do so we will have up to 30 days to confirm if the request meets the eligibility criteria, including whether the estimated cost of that connection falls under the £3,400 cost threshold. If it meets the eligibility criteria and is estimated to cost less than £3,400, the connection can start to be delivered straight away. If the cost is estimated to be over the threshold, and the customer would still like to proceed, we will carry out a full survey and provide a detailed quotation to the customer within 60 days.

 


 

[1] Complaints code of practice: Regarding Complaint Handling and Dispute Resolution for Domestic and Small Business Customers, available at: https://www.kcomhome.com/media/2872610/complaints-code-of-practice-oct-2019.pdf.

[2] The full technical specification of the USO includes a download (rather than throughput) sync speed of at least 10Mbps; an upload sync speed of at least 1Mbps; a contention ratio of no higher than 50:1; latency which is capable of allowing the end-user to make and receive voice calls over the connection effectively; and the capability to allow data usage of at least 100 gigabytes per month.  

[3] This affordability threshold represents the total charge for the broadband service (i.e. rental and connection charges and inclusive of VAT) over the fixed commitment period for the contract. It is subject to future adjustments for CPI inflation.

[4] In some limited instances, where the provision of service presents a technical challenge our standard lead times may be extended to a period of 30 days. Customers will always be informed if this is the case.  

[5] In addition to our consumer services, we offer a range of Lightstream packages designed for business customers. The details of these can be found at: https://heybusiness.kcom.com/products/connectivity/internet-connectivity/

[6] KCOM’s Standard Fibre Lightstream service has a download sync speed of 30Mbps; an upload sync speed of 15Mbps; and is available with a either 150GB download allowance, or unlimited usage. The broadband USO requires minimum download sync speed of 10Mbps and a minimum upload sync speed of 1Mbps. 

[7] There are a number of Multi Dwelling Units (MDUs) that are buildings comprising two or more flats, offices, or mixed use facilities in the Hull area where restrictions limit our ability to install Lightstream broadband services. For this reason, we need to obtain a legal access right from the building owner (i.e. a wayleave) to allow us to provide fibre services to these MDUs within the 30 day lead time. We are in the process of requesting these rights, which will allow us access to the MDUs and we will always prioritise those MDUs where a customer requests service.

[8] To help achieve as many USO connections as possible below the £3,400 threshold, we will aggregate the level of local demand. This potentially brings more connections under the reasonable cost threshold by sharing the costs.

[9] There is also the option of using alternative technology, such as commercially available satellite outside the USO scheme, or keeping their existing service that delivers a lower speed.