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Farewell to the fax machine?

Unless you’ve moved house or you’re a footballer’s agent – or indeed a footballer’s agent who’s moved house – then you might not have had much reason to use a fax machine in recent years.

The communications device – formally known as a facsimile machine – was once a regular feature in offices and, to a lesser extent, homes.

They worked by allowing users to send an exact copy (or a facsimile) of a page of text or images to the recipient, using a telephone line to do so.

This is one of the reasons they were used in big-money transactions with tight deadlines, such as house sales or football transfers, as they enabled contracts to be exchanged quickly and accurately.

But as digital technology and broadband services have developed, the fax machine has been overtaken by email and document sharing software that offer the same or better functionality.

We’re now consulting on changes to telecoms rules that could see the fax machine become a thing of the past.

What’s changing?

We’re proposing changes to the rules that will mean telecoms providers will no longer be required to provide fax services under the universal service obligation (USO).

The USO is a set of rules that makes sure phone services are available to people across the UK at an affordable price. There are two designated telecoms providers responsible for universal service in the UK – BT and KCOM (in the Hull area only).

The current USO was set out in 2003, when fax machines were more prevalent and email and instant messaging were less ubiquitous. So, at that time it was important the USO required BT and KCOM to provide fax services.

Almost 20 years later, and the telecoms landscape has changed. Not only are alternatives to fax machines now more widely available, migration of telephone networks to internet protocol (IP) technology means fax services can no longer be guaranteed to work in the same way.

We previously consulted on this subject last year. We considered it was appropriate for fax to be removed from the USO, given its limited ongoing use, as well as the fact that developments in technology now mean there are a range of alternative available for people to use.

We’re inviting comments by 1 December on our implementation of this change, and we expect to publish a statement in early 2023.


Channel website: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/

Original article link: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/news-centre/2022/farewell-to-the-fax-machine

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