What is connection on reasonable request?
BT is required under its Universal Service obligations to provide a telephone connection at a fixed location on reasonable request and at uniform prices throughout the UK. This benefits customers whom the market would not otherwise serve (because the connection is uneconomic).
Ofcom has agreed with BT that where the cost of installation is more than £3,400, the customer can be asked to pay the excess. (This figure derives from an estimate by BT of the notional cost of 100 hours’ labour.) So for example, if an installation was expected to cost £4,400, the customer would be asked to contribute £1,000. The threshold is a way balancing the needs of the majority and the needs of customers in remote areas. If it did not exist, some people could be refused a connection on the grounds that their request was unreasonable.
Ofcom does expect BT to show discretion about charging the excess where a customer is disabled, is eligible for a social tariff or is vulnerable in some way. BT must also be able to show that it has looked for the most cost-effective solution, and must offer customers the opportunity to carry out work on their own land themselves. Where two or more households wish to be connected at the same time, they should be able to share any excess charges if they make the arrangements together.
BT will only carry out an uneconomic installation at a customer’s permanent home, because a landline at a second home is not considered necessary to prevent social exclusion (which is the purpose of the obligation). With static caravans and boats at residential moorings, if the customer has a postal address and the boat or caravan is their permanent home, BT will carry out an uneconomic installation. However, this does not apply where a caravan is on a site that is licensed for holiday use only and/or closes for the winter.