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Barriers to connectivity: the paradox of industry regulation

Gita Sorensen is the Founder and Managing Director of GOS Consulting – a specialised regulatory, economics, and strategy consultancy, with deep-rooted expertise in the electronic communications sector.

Having worked in the industry for over thirty years, Gita’s knowledge on regulation and investment in the telecoms space is undeniably extensive – so much so, she’s delivered a host of insight at esteemed events spanning Connected Britain to The International Institute of Communications over the years. She joins us for a very welcomed first edition of our barrier busting blog series…

While the potential benefits of enhanced connectivity and choice are huge, it’s unfortunate that plans to unlock that value have not taken off as fast as hoped. This is partially due to a perfect storm of legal and regulatory barriers.

When it comes to regulation and legislation, there’s no disputing its value. As well as providing an effective foundation for protecting networks and services, it aims to ensure that public policy objectives are met, while guaranteeing basic rights for the end user.

Initiatives such as Gaining Provider Led Switching, also known as One Touch Switching, for example, exist to ensure the seamless and successful transition of services from one provider – or access infrastructure – to another.

Having mandated One Touch Switching in September 2021, Ofcom has tasked industry with developing and launching this facility by April 2023. To achieve compliance will require changes to the customer journeys of most providers, as well as significant investment in systems and processes.

There is simply such a vast and complex array of regulations and policies for providers to understand. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that regulatory uncertainty and lack of legal clarity can be barriers in their own right.

Navigating complex compliance requirements

Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom sets General Conditions of Entitlement on communications providers, which they must meet to operate in the UK. Amongst other areas, these conditions set the basic requirements for consumer contracts – including provision of information and obligatory support for vulnerable consumers.

The General Conditions of Entitlement are updated regularly, most recently in June of this year, and it’s up to each provider to keep up-to-date and manage their own compliance. This requires constant monitoring of changes, assessing which conditions apply to each individual provider and what they need to do to comply.

And this complexity is something we’re seeing across other industry regulations too. The Government’s recent 90-page code of practice under the Telecoms Security Act – which sets strict rules for how systems, networks, and processes must be configured to ensure they are not vulnerable to hostile intervention – focuses entirely on very large providers and offers no support at all for smaller providers. This is causing significant risk and uncertainty across the industry.

Practical help to overcome these barriers

Lots of subsidies and funding initiatives exist to lend altnets and operators a hand in accelerating full fibre deployment – but there’s no denying these are difficult to not only navigate, but also to access.

With such a constant influx of ever-changing information, it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed – but advice and assistance is often not within reach of smaller providers. This can be because they are not aware of the new requirements they have to comply with, or because the cost of advice and assistance is prohibitive for them.

Hot on the heels of customer demand, GOS Consulting’s easy-to-use TSA Compliance Toolkit has been developed to offer practical help to UK providers – regardless of size, scale, or the types of service provided.

With detailed information specific to each tier, the dynamic navigation tool aims to make sense of the complex nature of the Telecoms Security Act – split into a module for senior management and a checklist for those responsible for detailed implementation.

If you’re keen to get ahead of the curve, and help bust the regulatory barriers to connectivity, explore GOS Consulting’s TSA Compliance Toolkit, today.

If you’re keen to talk about the topics covered in this article in further detail, please head over to their website.

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