On September 3, 2019, the Norwegian government proposed to update the country's universal service obligation (USO) to include broadband with download speeds of either 10Mbps or 20Mbps and 2Mbps upload speed. The proposal effectively makes basic broadband services a legal right for every citizen. The consultation also looks at how the broadband USO should be funded.
On September 3, 2019, the Norwegian government proposed to create the right to access basic broadband in the country. It has launched a consultation to include broadband services under the USO, which runs until December 3, 2019. The consultation offers two alternatives for the guaranteed minimum speeds of:
10Mbps download and 2Mbps upload
20Mbps download and 2Mbps upload.
The government's consultation also looks at how the USO could be financed and the final model will be chosen after the consultation closes. There are several ways to finance and deliver the obligation:
using public funds
sharing the net costs between electronic service providers, communications networks, and services
a combination of public funds and the sharing of costs between providers of electronic communications networks and services.
Norwegian regulator Nkom had previously proposed a USO for broadband that delivers basic and good quality broadband services. At the time, it advised that the current obligation to supply fixed telephony should be replaced by a USO for broadband (4Mbps downstream) from February 2016. However, this suggestion was never put into force and the new proposal has increased the speed significantly.
The aim of the new broadband USO is to ensure the entire population has access to good communication services regardless of geography and technology. The existing USO only covers telephony services, so the new proposal would see this extended so that one or more providers would be obligated to supply basic broadband services throughout the country too. Broadband is a critical part of modern society, and both proposed broadband speeds are expected to meet all the basic needs of households and businesses. This announcement is particularly important since Telenor has recently announced it will begin phasing out its copper network, so it will be imperative to ensure that all citizens still receive a good connection after the switch-off. While coverage for both mobile and fixed broadband is good in Norway, there is still room for improvement, so the new USO should go some way toward connecting any hard-to-reach areas too. By 2018, Norway had achieved 82% coverage against the EC's Digital Agenda 2020 target of 100% coverage at 30Mbps and reached 80% coverage of 100Mbps speeds.
A USO ensures that basic services are available at affordable prices to all households and businesses. For many countries, this includes functional internet access, which has generally been defined as basic dial-up speeds. With the ever-increasing demand for more data and improvements in average connection speeds, there is an argument for introducing a broadband USO that better reflects today's technological capabilities. Norway joins several other European countries that have already embarked on defining and implementing a universal service for broadband in an effort to reduce the digital divide. The top speed of 20Mbps outlined by the Norwegian government would be far higher than those introduced in many other nations. Most are still around 1–2Mbps, although the UK has introduced a 10Mbps obligation.
Norway (Country Regulation Overview), GLB005-000140 (April 2019)
Universal Service Obligations for Broadband, TE0007-001038 (August 2016)
Sarah McBride, Analyst, Regulation