Eircom appeals latest universal service provider obligation
Eircom has appealed its redesignation as a 'universal service obligation' (USO) operator for telephone services in remote rural areas by the national telecoms regulator. The role was set for 18 months.
The Commission for Communications Regulation (Comreg) said that it believes the obligation, which requires Eircom to cover the costs of maintaining telephone and basic data access to homes in remote parts of the country, should be extended for up to five years.
However, Eircom has appealed the move. It is understood that the company is unhappy about Comreg's justification for the continued imposition of a universal service obligation in the absence of a strategic review.
Comreg has said it will examine some of the issues surrounding the regulation and costs of USO requirements.
Eircom is believed to favour the introduction of a USO 'fund' that rival operators would contribute to.
Under current regulatory rules, Eircom must provide telephone poles and cabling to remote rural areas, even if the connecting customer chooses to use another telephone operator on the newly-built Eircom infrastructure.
Eircom is currently embroiled in a High Court case over the future of the USO, which it has called "an unfair burden".
Comreg has promised to review other elements of the USO, including the amount that Eircom must contribute to the infrastructure cost of connecting a remote property to a telephone line. At present, its so-called 'reasonable access threshold' stands at €7,000 per property.
Comreg has also promised to reconsider the requirement for a universal service obligation if broadband rollout reaches a certain level of national penetration.
"In respect of access at a fixed location, ComReg is mindful that the provision over time of high speed broadband to homes and businesses, including as a result of the National Broadband Plan, may mean that the requirement for the universal service of access at a fixed location could, in time, lessen and indeed become unnecessary," said the regulator.