In 2020, the broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) was launched, giving every home and business in the UK the right to request a decent, affordable internet connection.
Ofcom is responsible for rolling out the new scheme, with British Telecommunications plc (BT) and Kingston Communications (KCOM) delivering USO connections and services. Ofcom’s new role relies on having a highly detailed view of the broadband services available across the UK – right down to every property.
For the USO to work, Ofcom needed to gather address-level information to identify properties that didn’t have access to a decent connection, and develop a standard definition of properties to define the scope of the scheme.
To gain the level of insight needed to roll out the USO, Ofcom worked with both Ordnance Survey (OS) and GeoPlace.
As a Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA) member, Ofcom benefits from both OS’s AddressBase Premium (used to inform its Connected Nations coverage reports) and AddressBase Islands (used to ensure a consistent UK approach to property information).
By drilling down to the individual property level, including additional features (such as PO boxes, and larger organisations) the enhanced information needed was sourced – leading to better communication services for all.
Working alongside both OS and GeoPlace, Ofcom also developed their approach for the identification of ‘service delivery addresses’. This included the comprehensive records from local land and property gazetteers – leading to improved data matching between customers and services providers, and the ability to accurately assess mobile and internet connectivity for all UK homes and businesses.
Ofcom has been able to successfully rollout the USO – meaning more people across the UK are now able to access good-quality internet connections – supporting online work and study, access to essential services – including healthcare and banking, shopping and socialising. Enhanced property-level data is also helping support Ofcom’s policy analysis and the information and advice they provide to consumers.
By using the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) as a ‘golden thread’, Ofcom can now share large data sets more efficiently with government departments and administrations across the UK, providing a deeper understanding of property-level internet and mobile services, now, and for the future.
It’s expected that the widespread adoption of UPRNs will lead to even more accurate customer information - giving everyone access to fast, efficient, personalised digital services.