Tag: universal Internet service obligation

Australia looks towards integrating Internet as a universal service


Broadband router lights

Could broadband be considered part of the Universal Service Obligation in Australia?

Making Internet Access A Right, Not A Privilege | Gizmodo Australia

From the horse’s mouth

Productivity Commission

Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (Inquiry Page)

My Comments

An issue that I have previously covered is the universal service obligation being extended to broadband Internet service. The universal service obligation is a minimum standard for providing telecommunications services across a country or other jurisdiction with it being funded through different paths like government funding and/or a levy on telecommunications services that are being provided with this funding subsidising financially-difficult service-provisioning scenarios such as rural areas. In some cases, it also includes having the jurisdiction’s welfare system cover the provision of these services to eligible disadvantaged people through a special benefit or subsidised services.

Some jurisdictions have started taking action towards this goal such as through establishing a minimum bandwidth for Internet services. Now Australia’s Productivity Commission are investigating the possibility of extending the Australian Universal Service Obligation beyond landline voice telephony to broadband Internet service of a minimum standard. This is due to a reality that most of the business that people engage in, especially the essential tasks like applying for jobs or government services, is being performed via Internet-based technologies rather than by voice phone calls.

The Productivity Commission’s goal is to make sure that a reasonable-standard broadband Internet service is accessible to all Australians. This includes assurance of access by people living in rural, regional or remote areas where it would normally be costly to provide proper broadband service; along with assuring access to these services by disabled people or those who have financial hardship.

They want to have a technology-neutral approach but with a minimum upload and download bandwidth. This also includes a minimum benchmark for assured reliability and data throughput. Like the original Universal Service Obligation, this extension to encompass broadband Internet service will be publicly funded in various ways.

A good question that can be raised is whether the Universal Service Obligation will cover fixed telephony and Internet services only or will be extended to mobile setups which can be considered by some as a “discretionary service”.

Personally, I would recommend that there is investigation regarding how other countries have approached Internet service as part of the Universal Service Obligation, including the kind of benefits that have been provided to disabled or disadvantaged users for this service by the nation’s welfare platform. As well, investigating the role of competition including at the infrastructure level in providing decent broadband Internet that is affordable and accessible for all.

Scotland to have rural broadband as part of its USO

Highland Piper Creative Commons http://www.panoramio.com/photo/58988884

A Highland piper will be on a better path with rural broadband being part of an Independent Scotland


UPDATE Independent Scotland Could Gain a USO for Broadband Internet | ISPReview UK

From the horse’s mouth

Scottish Government

Connecting Rural Scotland position paper

My Comments

There is a lot of talk in the UK about Scotland’s push for independence coming through with a referendum occurring on the 18th September 2014. If the vote on this referendum turns out “Yes”, Scotland would become an independent nation rather than part of the United Kingdom which is what true-blooded Scots have been looking forward to since 1603.

Flag_of_Scotland_(navy_blue).svgOne of the issues that will be called as part of an independent Scottish government’s roadmap would be improved rural connectivity. Here, this will encompass access to public transport and proper teleccomunications in areas like the Highlands or Campbelltown.

For that matter, Scotland will integrate real broadband in the country areas as part of the universal service obligation. This is something I stand for with HomeNetworking01.info in order to allow those of us who live, work or do business in the country areas to be on an even footing with those of us who live in the cities. As far as Scotland is concerned, the rural sector is what gives the country its character, especially in the form of the whisky the country is known for or the farms that can turn out the “neeps and tatties” or the meat for the haggis that is to be piped in as part of the Burns supper..

There is a level of public-private investment taking place concerning the provision of rural broadband infrastructure but the integration of Scotland’s broadband projects in the UK efforts will change should the devolution go ahead. There are unanswered questions about issues such as infrastructure technology or minimum assured bandwidth, which may also include issues like dealing with the mountains of the Highlands.

What I at least like about this is that a country that is wanting to start out independently is factoring in rural broadband as part of its road map. Here’s to Scotland for the right direction!

FTTP–Britain is offering it as an option in some fibre-copper areas


FTTP on Demand for those who want it  | ThinkBroadband

My Comments

Some next-generation broadband services that are in existence use a fibre-copper setup like FTTC where there is a fibre-optic run to a street-side box and a short copper-cable run from the street-side box to the customer’s premises. In a multi-tenant building setup like a block of flats or a shopping centre, there may be a “fibre-to-the-building” setup where there is the copper-cable run within the development but a fibre-optic run to the development itself.

This method is being pushed as a cost-effective solution for providing next-generation broadband and has been intensified as part of the National Broadband Network debate by Tony Abbott and the Liberal-National-Party Coalition.

But BT Openreach are providing the fibre-to-the-premises technology as an extra-cost option on top of their fibre-to-the-cabinet setups in the UK. Typically the cost for providing this option would be significant and may be paid out over time.The kind of people who may initially purchase it would be larger businesses or “tech-head” computer enthusiasts who want as much bandwidth as they can.

On the other hand, most typical home and small-business users would use the fibre-to-the-cabinet setups. It is also worth noting that if a significant number of users covering a particular area choose this option, installation costs may be reduced when it comes to providing fibre-to-the-premises Internet service due to existing infrastructure.

An issue that is also forgotten about when considering “FTTP as an option” is the concept of an upgrade path. This is where a customer existing at the same premises who had a fibre-copper setup may decide to go “all-fibre” for the faster bandwidth; or a subsequent customer may move in to the same premises and go “all-fibre”. This could be supported through the use of same physical infrastructure (trenches / poles) for fibre / copper setups and a costing plan for upgrades.

The article talked of public money being used to finance next-generation broadband infrastructure and where private money should cover the cost. They were raising issues of whether public money should fund the link from the “digital hub” to the customer or whether private money should do this, and there may be a reluctance for private money to be used to provide FTTP or similar options for areas not considered profitable like rural areas or areas subjected to “redlining” based on the then-current community makeup.

The “FTTP as an option” could be seen as a compromise to please the “no-public-money” advocates when it comes to providing next-generation broadband. On the other hand, a properly thought-out universal-service obligation setup with a minimum bandwidth and a public-private funding pool could assist with making technologies like FTTP become affordable for most users. It should also support the ability to prevent “redlining” of areas when it comes to providing the next-generation broadband service.

The Universal Service Fund now extends its remit to the USA’s rural broadband needs


FCC’s ‘Connect America Fund’ redirects phone fees to provide rural broadband – Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Press Release – PDF

Executive Summary of FCC order – PDF

Connecting America page

My Comments

The FCC have taken further steps to bring the reality of proper broadband service to rural areas closer to America.

Here, they have passed an Order to reform the Universal Service Fund and intercarrier compensation schemes in order to cut out wast and extend the scope of this universal-service-obligation mechanism to broadband data and cellular wireless service. This scheme has also been renamed the “Connect America Fund” due to this new remit.

They see it as a job-creating economy stimulus because of the concept of extending real broadband Internet to the rural areas. This could be true due to the ability for larger employers who value broadband like research-driven industries to set up shop in small towns where the land is cheaper. Other established small businesses like Main-Street shops or “Motel-6”-style motels are in a position to benefit in many ways.

This fund also has established a “Mobility Fund” which helps cellular-telephony / wireless-broadband carriers to extend their wireless footprint into the rural areas, including the Tribal areas.

The FCC have placed requirements for proper accountability regarding service provision. Here, it must be proven that the carriers are actually deploying the broadband services to the rural areas in question and that the services are real modern networks.

But there is a gap concerning the definition of the broadband services in this press release. Here, there isn’t a determined headline speed for the data services and the FCC haven’t qualified the point of measurement for a rural broadband service. This can lead to installation of DSLAMs in an exchange yet link these modems to the customers via decrepit telephone infrastructure. As I have observed, this environment leads to reduced DSL service reliability and bandwidth.

There is also another gap concerning the improvement of broadband coverage in peri-urban areas which were standalone rural towns. As I have said before, these areas may be servicing a farming industry or an area of outstanding beauty but they could be working with decrepit communications infrastructure. These areas should be worked on when it comes to building out telecommunications coverage.

They have also modernised the intercarrier compensation funding regime to encompass VoIP services. This is especially as more American households and businesses head towards VoIP telephony setups, whether to reduce call costs or take advantage of features in these setups.

From this, I have seen some positive steps to cover the rural parts of the US with real broadband and I hope that the FCC doesn’t become a toothless tiger in this respect.

Finland – the first country to actually have a universal broadband Internet service obligation in place

News Articles

Internet for all, declares Finland | The Age Technology (Australia)

Finland the first country in the world to make broadband access a legal right | Engadget

Is Broadband a Basic Right? Finland Says Yes! | GigaOM

My comments

Previously, I had written a post on this blog about Finland proposing to establish universal access to broadband Internet with a minimum speed of 1Mbps as a basic right. This was in response to the usual blogosphere comments about a legal right to download BitTorrents of movies and similar content in that country when this news was initially broken, and I was stating it as a preparation ground for IP-based video services, VoIP telephony and the ability to use the Internet to do business competitively.

Now this goal has become real with the Finnish government with them establishing certain Internet providers as “universal service providers” who have to provide the service for 30-40€ / month. Another issue that hasn’t been raised in the press coverage is how Finland will finance this universal-service obligation.

This is whether through:

  • spending by the government out of the country’s annual budget
  • a levy on telecommunications or Internet services (current practice in the US for the universal telephone service)
  • annexing the TV-licence or similar audiovisual-service fee used to fund the public broadcast service (UK’s proposed solution) or
  • simply letting the universal-service providers charge more for discretionary services (current practice in Australia with Telstra).

One of the articles was also looking at idea of the US adopting a similar “bill-of-rights” method for protecting the standard of Internet service in that country. This is even though there is a lawsuit filed by Comcast against the FCC that is currently in progress concerning Net neutrality and the right if the state to have their hand in the provision of Internet service.

What I see of this is that Finland has led the pack by being the first country to write in their law books that broadband Internet be provided as a universal service in a similar manner to mains electricity or the telephone service. It will be interesting to see who will be the next country to take tbis step seriously.