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UNIVERSAL SERVICE – GLOBAL BACKGROUND, SCOPE AND BEST PRACTICES Nirmita Narasimhan Centre for Internet and Society
Agenda l History l Scope of USF l USF around the world Funding Models l Country examples l l General Observations
HISTORY Term originally coined in 1913 when AT&T was allowed to be sole service provider subject to certain restrictions l Interconnection to all networks and not service to all customers l US Communications Act of 1934 for the first time established the policy that all wired and radio communications services should be made available to all citizens at reasonable cost. l
HISTORY Present Universal Service - the minimum set of telecommunication services that should be accessible to everyone. l The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in its second colloquium in 1993 recognized the elements of universal service to include - access to telephones, availability and affordability, residual service, information infrastructure and the provision of specific services. l
SCOPE l l l Initially was used to refer mostly to fixed telephone service. With developments in ICT and convergence, its scope has widened to include broadband mobiles in many countries. In many countries, persons with disabilities are expressly recognized as an intended beneficiary of the activities of the fund. In India, USOF covers cellular and broadband services. While the Indian charter does not yet expressly include persons with disabilities, the USOF nevertheless recognizing this as an underserved community has decided to fund some pilot projects for this group.
USF AROUND THE WORLD Concept of USF exists in 127 countries. l Different models of funding include: - Centralised fund with programmes/ schemes- eg. USA and India - USO policy- EU USP - Australia, New Zealand Ireland - Pairing of service areas l
FUNDING MODELS Levies on operators l Budget allocations from national budget. l Combination of funding mechanisms: For e. g. Kenya- levies and allocation l
AUSTRALIA l l Regulator: Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) USP: Telstra Division 2 of The Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act, 1999 prescribes equitable access to standard telephone services, payphones and prescribed carriage services l Section 6 of Australia’s Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 - standard telephone service includes any equivalent form of service required by a person with a disability who cannot use the normal means of communication. l Telstra mandated to provide alternative means of communication like text tele typewriters, volume control phones and hands free phones. l Priority service- faster connections, quick repairs and more reliable connections. (24 hrs in urban areas and 48 hrs in rural areas). l
FRANCE l l l Regulator: Autorité de Régulation des Communications Électroniques et des Postes – ARCEP USP: France Telecom Art. L. 35 -1 of the Telecom Act 1996 mandates provision of quality telephone service at affordable price. Low income and disabled users are recognised as “social categories with special needs” Pay phones in France have to have: l l A special button on payphones for blind users and persons with visual impairments with voice based server with pricing information; Listening text public telephones for deaf users or users with hearing and speech impairments. ‘Locomotor’ disabled - devices without door, with lowered position French Govt. has also announced its intention to set up specific relay service centres for persons with hearing loss.  http: //www. arcep. fr/index. php? id=1&L=1
IRELAND l l Regulator: Commission for Communications Regulation USP: Telecom company Eircom, (designated USP until June 2012) l Eircom’s obligations towards persons with disabilities: l l Provide a dedicated section of its website, accessible from the homepage, with information on the services which affect persons with disabilities. Maintain a code of practice regarding the facilitation of services for persons with disabilities which will be subject to periodic review and amendment. Provide inductive couplers for users who are hearing impaired, along with amplifiers and teleflash visuals. Provide text relay service through the National Relay service under the National Association for the deaf programme.
IRELAND l Eircom’s obligations towards persons with disabilities (continued): l l Offer rebates for text telephone calls Provide push button telephone sets with speed and automatic redial buttons which will enable allowing pre-programmed telephone numbers and hands free phones to people with dexterity impairments. Provide restricted vision telephones and free Braille billing for people with visual impairments Provide free alternative directory enquiry services.
ITALY l l Regulator: Agcom USP : Telecom Italia acts as the USP without formal designation. Framework for universal service is found in the EU universal service directive l Telecom Italia has made the following services available: l l l l Easy activation and repair of services Accessible public telephones for consumers using hearing aids Dome-type public phone booths, equipped with a metal bar at the base allowing for detection with the stick used by persons with visual impairments. 50 per cent discount on monthly phone bills for eligible households having persons with disabilities. Total exemption from telephone charges for households with one deaf person 90 hours of free internet usage, or a 50 per cent reduction on monthly charges for households that include one “completely blind” person.
JAMAICA The ICT policy gives the fund the power to support programmes for vulnerable groups like low income households, the elderly, youth and persons with disabilities. l In 2009 the USAF Company provided computers and audio visual media material for 6 schools to the amount of 6 million dollars. l
KENYA l Regulator: Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Chapter VIB of the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act 2009 lays down for the establishment of fund to be administered by CCK. l Section 3 (2) (b) of the Kenya Information and Communications (universal Access and Service) Regulations, published in 2010 imposes specific obligations on the USP. Presently Kenya’s USF has initiated 6 pilot projects across the country. l ICT for people with disabilities project - makes the USF responsible for facilitating “reasonable” availability and affordability of “basic and advanced communications systems and services” to disabled end users at both the household and individual levels l
KENYA l Some of its projects include: l Establishing school-based ICT centres in secondary education institutions for disabled students. l Setting up an accessibility web portal offering information for and about persons with disabilities. l Conducting an awareness campaign to develop suitable guidelines on ICT for Persons with Disabilities. l CCK has identified eight institutions for people with physical, hearing and visual impairments to participate in this programme. The regulator supported the supply, delivery, and installation of computers, requisite hardware, software, and furniture through the fund and will support internet connectivity in the schools for a two year duration.
LITHUANIA Regulator: RRT (Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania ) l Chapter 5 of the Law on Electronic Communications 2004+ EU US Directive outlines scope of USF l Article 31 (1)covers the following services: l l l Public fixed telephony and related services Pay phone services Directory enquiry services Accessibility for persons with disabilities USP is mandated to ensure that the total number of public pay phones that cent needs is the per disabled cater toless of than 10 no end users of all pay phones in the country l These payphones must be equipped with instructions for users in large, easy- to read font and be illuminated when dark l The USP also is mandated to install at least one textual public payphone in every disabled rehabilitation centre l First 85 euros of the cost of a new handset every five years is covered by the State budget. l
MALAYSIA Regulator: Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) l Section 202 of the Communication and Multimedia Act, 1998 - set out the universal service provision obligation. l USP - identifies persons with disabilities as an underserved community/ group, which does not have collective/ individual access to communication. l 192 of the Act also states that the Required Application Service i. e. specific services that service providers are mandated to offer includes services for disabled consumers. l l  http: //www. skmm. gov. my/link_file/the_law/New. Act/Act%20588/a 0588 s 0193. htm
NEW ZEALAND Regulator: Commerce Commission l Telecommunications Service Obligations (TSO) in New Zealand is outlined in Part 3 of the Telecommunications Act 2001 and facilitates specific telecommunication services that may not be available commercially or are unaffordable l Govt. of New Zealand has set up a national relay service which is being operated by Sprint through 2 call centres. l
PAKISTAN Regulator: Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) USF established as a company. Sec 2 of the USF Policy document lays down the mandate of the fund to meet the needs of telecommunications services in unserved and underserved areas throughout the country. l Like India, does not expressly mention persons with disabilities. l But in section 5, subsection 5. 7 under services to be covered it lays down that the contractors are required to provide special services, infrastructure and special equipment for persons with disabilities. l l l
PAKISTAN l 2008 - project titled “ Enabling Persons with Disabilities to use telecom services”. l l l Under this project the fund signed a $25 million contract with the Al-Shifa Eye Trust to do the following activities: . To extend support to the Low vision center at Rawalpindi hospital and help make it into a ‘Center of Excellence’ through expansion in infrastructure, recruitment of trained professionals and making available to the centre, modern low vision equipment. To up-grade the low vision center at Sukkur, Sindh by providing it with modern equipment To establish low vision centers on the lines of Rawalpindi and Sukkur at Kohat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The USF has also signed a USD 6. 1 million contract with the Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness.  The project is aimed at utilizing USF funds to digitise Audio World Library and establish an internet café at Darakhshan Rehabilitation Centre, as well to expand the foundation’s accessible internet café at Islamabad.  http: //www. usf. org. pk/Publicphase. aspx? phaseid=51&pgid=12&phasename=Project with Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness
POLAND l l Regulator: The Office of Electronic Communications Telecommunications Law of 2004 - Universal Service. Art 81 clause 3 provides for: l l l Fixed telephone services that can support internet access and fax transmission Directory and directory enquiry services Payphone services Services for persons with disabilities Art. 89 of the Telecommunications Law mandates the USP to provide the following services for persons with disabilities – l l Terminal equipment adapted to meet the needs of persons with disabilities Facilities which persons with disabilities may require to access universal services such as accessible payphones etc.
PORTUGAL l Regulator: Autoridade Nacional de Comunicações (ANACOM) l The USO in Portugal covers the following services l l l connection to the fixed telephone network and access to the fixed telephone service, supply of public pay phones and provision of telephone directories and a directory enquiries service Article 5. 0 of Chapter II of the decree deals with public pay phones. Section 6 makes it obligatory for the service provider to comply with technical norms to guarantee access to payphones in public buildings for persons with disabilities. l Chapter IV Article 10. 0 on pricing makes provisions for special price systems for specificor for categories of users or services. These include persons with disabilities. l
PORTUGAL l Portugal covers the following services under USO for persons with disabilities - Billing in accessible formats - Text Relay Services - Information about accessible services - Functions and special measures for access to emergency services - Mandating handsets for fixed telephony to be accessible - In addition, service end-users with hearing impairments need only pay EUR 30. 90 towards their telecommunication service, with the remainder subsidized by the USP on a voluntary basis.
SLOVAKIA l Regulator: Telekomunikačný úrad SR (TU SR) l Chapter 2 (2) Act of the Act 610 on Electronic Communications 2003 provides for: l l l Fixed telephony services at public places that can support internet access Directory and directory inquiry services Access to pay phones Free and uninterrupted access to emergency call numbers Access to public telephone services for persons with disabilities including barrier-free access to pay phone facilities that are fitted with assistive technologies. Chapter 2 (3) states that information regarding public pay phones and other services available through the USO for persons with disabilities must be established in a binding legal regulation.
SLOVAKIA l Article 2 of the Measure states that the designated universal service provider shall ensure that every payphone l l Shall include simple operating instructions Be enabled with buttons that can be identified by visually impaired users Be equipped with multilevel sound amplification Shall facilitate access to an operator for hearing impaired users Article 3 states that the USP must ensure that a minimum of 25 per cent of payphones are accessible to hearing impaired users with hearing aids and ensure that they are marked as being so. l According to Article 4, the USP must provide for users with hearing and speech impairments l l Round-the-clock operator service for assistance A terminal device for access to public telephone services including emergency services Article 5 mandates the USP to provide free access to information services about telephone numbers to persons with visual disabilities.
SLOVENIA l USP - Telecom Slovenia l USP is obligated to provide the following services as per law: l l l Prioritize service and repair requests from disabled end-users Provide eligible persons with disabilities a 50 per cent discount for setting up a fixed line connection. Make available general information about available services including details of tariff in Braille and audio formats Offer eligible persons with disabilities a 5 per cent discount on monthly charges for publicly available fixed telephone services. Make available information about call costs, remaining balance on prepaid etc through voice messages for visually impaired users. Provide users with visual impairments a special number to call at for assistance in placing calls at no extra charge.
SWEDEN l Regulator: Swedish Post and Telegraphs Agence (PTS) The activities of PTS with regard to meeting USOs are financed via levies applied on service operators and broadcast license holders. l Programmes and initiatives operational under the PTS for persons with disability are funded from allocations from within the national budget of Sweden. l Several provisions mandating accessibility for persons with disabilities. l l l PTS: Specialist terminal equipment, relay services, accessible billing systems and information and emergency services SMS 112 project: distress calls to emergency number 112 using text a message which is in trial state. Audio 4 all : tools for the distribution and navigation of audio information which looks at testing flexible mediums for dissemination and use of audio information by people with reading disabilities through computers, cell phones and broadband television and digital streaming. the e-Adept project, is looking at ways in which persons with disabilities can independently navigate their way in urban environments through digital maps and GPS.
THAILAND l Regulator: National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission NTBC is in charge of administering the USF and according to sec 17 of the Telecommunications Business Act, 2001, can demand service providers to provide services for children, elderly persons and persons with disabilities. l Designated USPs are required to provide the following services for persons with disabilities – l l Provide a free 30 -minute phone card person every month for persons with disabilities, low income people and seniors who are registered with Ministry of Social Development and Human Security for 30 months counting from the date of license issuance. Provide at least 1 public telephone within 100 meters in radius for low income communities that make a petition. Provide public telephone and other necessary services for persons with disabilities as per act of disability B. C. 2544.
UNITED KINGDOM l l l Regulator: Ofcom In charge of implementing specific measures for persons with disabilities. Specific conditions imposed on BT and Kingston and general conditions on all service providers. l l Special tariff schemes for low income customers A fixed network connection which includes internet access Access to public pay phones Services for persons with disabilities including text relay service: l l l USO is currently funded by BT and Kingston who have been designated as universal service providers. The EU directive makes provision for funding through the NRA in case the obligation poses an “unfair burden” on the USPs. Text Relay Service is operated in UK by BT under the USF. All communications providers must give their customers access to an approved text relay service at no extra cost.  http: //www. k-c. co. uk/  http: //stakeholders. ofcom. org. uk/consultations/uso/main/
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA l l l l USP: USAC, the company set up by the FCC for administering the USF is run under four broad categories. Funds utilized for subsidizing telecom services in high cost areas, for low income persons, for rural health care services and for schools and libraries. USF administered differently by different states Discounts on basic telecommunication services are there in many states like Vermont, Missouri, Colorado and Virginia, Wisconsin Telecommunications Equipment Purchase Programme - vouchers to purchase assistive technology necessary to use basic telecom services. Access Programme l l l Access to telecom and information services for users in areas having high service costs, low income users or persons with disabilities. Technology for education achievement programme - schools, libraries and colleges. Newsline
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA l California l l l California Telephone Access Programme- provides telecommunications assistive technologies and devices for persons with disabilities. California Relay Service Oregon l l Oregon Telephone Relay service- free relay service operated by Sprint. Telecommunication Devices Access Programme: loans adaptive telecommunications equipment to eligible residents free of charge.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS l l l Persons with disabilities can clearly be tremendously benefited by access to telecommunications. Their needs are left unmet by mainstream programmes and need specific programmes and financial outlay. Technologies exist to make telecommunications accessible. There are huge percentages of population which can benefit from accessible telecommunications: persons with disabilities, elderly persons and illiterate persons. Many countries have implemented projects for connecting the disabled, with or without specific policy provisions.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS l Common programmes includel l l Provision of financial assistance through subsidies and loans to purchase ATs Accessible pay phones ICT projects in media, health and education Customer Care requirements. Relay service