The aim of regulating the communications industry is to promote competition in the supply of communications services and products, and to seek to prevent anti-competitive behaviour by companies in a position to dominate the market. This has been the case ever since the liberalisation of the industry in the UK.
Ofcom is the regulatory authority within the UK and of course it also acts within the auspices of the European Union in this area, which has a similar perspective based around liberalisation.
Prospect actively seeks to influence the regulatory environment in which companies employing Prospect members operate.
Within the context of our own policies on the communications industry, we respond to key consultation documents produced both by Ofcom and by government ministries both at the UK level and, where possible, with the devolved authorities.
Within the European framework, we work within UNI, the international trade union to which Prospect is affiliated, and are represented on UNI's panel of regulatory specialists.
The policy issues currently on Prospect's agenda are:
1. Promoting investment Ofcom bases its regulatory interventions solely on promoting competition. At a time when both fixed and mobile industries have immense investment requirements to deliver high-speed broadband and to cope with the data explosion, the 'ever faster for ever cheaper' consumer model, at a time of falling real revenues, risks inhibiting essential investment and the industry's future growth.
We believe that regulation must therefore urgently prioritise the ability of all network operators to invest and that Ofcom needs a new statutory duty in this regard.
2. A role for the public sector There must be a clearly-defined role for the public sector in support of what the private sector is prepared to do. The market alone will not deliver high-speed broadband cohesively right the way across the nations and regions of the UK.
The existing aims of DCMS - 2 Mbit/s for all by 2015; plus speeds of 24 Mbit/s to 95% of the population by 2017; and to provide financing for pilot projects pushing superfast broadband into the final 5% - are laudable, but Prospect believes that more needs to be done, and more quickly. There is a strong argument here for the commitment of greater public resources than the government has made so far.
3. Structural separation This refers to the enforced splitting off of Openreach into a separately-owned business. This is a current debate within the context of the Strategic Review that Ofcom is currently holding. Prospect is implacably opposed to this on the grounds that it would chill investment in superfast broadband; is a high-risk diversion which creates uncertainty; would undermine essential improvements in quality of service; jeopardise the pan-BT research effort from which all service users benefit; and raise Openreach's costs.
None of this can be in the interests of consumers - or workers in the industry, for that matter - and we have called on Ofcom to rule out such a move at an early stage in the review. You can read our initial submission, to Ofcom's July 2015 discussion document, via the 'Key Documents' box - and indeed we would urge you to do so.
4. In addition, we are continue to keep our policies and lines of approach under review on a number of other issues including:
- cloud computing
- network neutrality
- mobile spectrum and roaming.