Have you ever wondered how it is that we all get a basic level of telephone service no matter where we live? Who provides us with free phone directories? Who provides public pay phones in remote locations?
The concept of Universal Service is designed to ensure that every person can receive a basic set of high quality telecommunications services, no matter where they live, at an affordable price. The Universal Service Provider ("USP") is obliged to provide these services.
On 25 July 2006 the Commission for Communications Regulation (“ComReg”) issued a decision notice re-designating eircom Limited as the Irish telecommunications USP for a period of four years ending in June 2010 in accordance with regulation 7 of the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Universal Service and Users' Rights) Regulations 2003 (“Regulations”).
ComReg’s decision notice follows the consultation on “The Future Provision of Telephony Services under Universal Service Obligations” which was instigated by ComReg document 06/16 and further elaborated upon in the response document 06/29.
The basic principles of universal service obligations are determined by Directive 2002/22/EC on Universal Service and Users' rights which was implemented in Ireland by the Regulations. The Regulations require ComReg to appoint a USP to provide basic rights with respect to telephony services to all persons in the state irrespective of their geographic location or cost. A number of rights flow from this.
The USP must ensure that every person in the state is able to obtain a telephone line at a fixed location which is capable of local, national and international telephone calls. The line must also be capable of sending and receiving facsimiles and be able to provide a functional internet connection.
The USP must also provide and maintain an operator service for emergency calls for all people in the State and provide reasonable access to public telephones in the State. A comprehensive telephone directory must also be provided by the USP.
There are also provisions in the Regulations to ensure that the service is provided at affordable costs to the end users. ComReg, with the consent of the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, can set conditions which include various tariffs at which these services are to be provided in order to ensure the low income and disabled sections of the population can afford the service.
ComReg must also ensure that basic quality standards are adhered to by the USP.
Broadband is specifically excluded from the scope of the universal service obligations. A review of the scope of universal service by the European Commission in 2005 and 2006 decided to maintain this exclusion.
An Post is the USP with regards to postal services in Ireland and it has a mandate to provide a daily delivery service to all persons in Ireland. An Post was nominated as USP in 2003 pursuant to European Communities (Postal Services) Regulations 2002.
The Future Provision of Telephony Services under Universal Service Obligations; document no. 06/32
S.I. 616 of 2002
t +353 1 614 5000
f +353 1 614 5001
South Bank House,
Dublin 4 Ireland.
t +44 20 3178 3366
f +44 20 3178 3367
60 Lombard Street,
London EC3V 9EA,
t +1 212 786 7376
f +1 212 786 7316
330 Madison Avenue,6th Floor,
New York NY 10017 ,