Universal Service – an international review

This study reviews universal service policy in a set of case study countries. It considers the services provided to consumers and the mechanisms for the provision and funding of those services.

We find that the scope and definition of universal service varies considerably from one case study country to another. For example, in some EU member states functional Internet access speeds are set at (or in excess of) 1 Mbps (e.g. Malta, Finland); in others they are not defined or set at a low level measured in kilobits per second.

There is general agreement that universal service should, in principle, involve the delivery of a core service to everyone in each case study country at an affordable price. But in practice this does not mean that universal service is available to absolutely everyone. For example, the cost threshold imposed in the UK effectively excludes some premises.

The case study countries also differ in the mechanisms used for appointing the universal service provider and for funding the net costs of universal service provision. These are explored further in the report.