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Friday, December 01, 2006

OFCOM & Universal Service Directive

One of main topics picked up by the press is the prospect of a Universal Service Obligation for Broadband. Ever the pedant, I have looked at Ed Richards speech and this is what he said:

“In the UK we have helped begin a debate about the future of PSB. It’s a critical debate that will unfold in the next few years. At the same time we may need a wider, European debate about what happens next to public service content and genres that the market may not supply in sufficient quantity; and which the old PSB model is unable to sustain.
We will need to consider whether new interventions, and funding mechanisms, should be developed in response to the erosion of the old model.
The same is true in telecommunications of universal service obligations and the Commission proposes to review the current Universal Service Directive next year.”
I have already been warned about Ed Richards bizarre thoughts on Public Service Broadcasting, but that is a debate for another day.

However, I actually welcome the review of the Universal Service Directive.

The questions I'd ask are:
  • Is it relevant for voice service in today’s multi-network world?
  • Is BT the right company to impose the obligation on? All the evidence from the USA and other Emerging Economies is that it is actually cheap and consumers actually prefer mobile service.
  • How much does it cost and who should fund it?
If we move on data:
  • Is Universal Service for Data necessary?
  • What about Access Devices? Should we force a PC into every home?
  • Who should fund it?
  • Is broadband to the home is the best place to deliver universal service?
Personally, I think we should go back in time and recommend libraries as the best place to deliver universal data service. The question would then become one of capacity and opening times of the libraries.

On a side note, I nearly had a heart attack when I realized that a well known Marxist agreed with me that OFCOM had gone too far in the Junk Food ban. With the Junk Food ban, I see the Law of Unintended Consequences is at work with this morning’s announcement that Domino’s Pizza is to spend it’s marketing pounds on sponsoring the Great Britain Special Olympics Team. Now, I ask myself who is the better role model for Domino's Pizza: a fat slob like Homer Simpson or a highly trained Athlete?