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In 1837, concept originated by Rowland Hill with his postal reforms, which included uniform rates across United Kingdom and prepayment by sender via postage stamps. Universal Service is a key objective of the Universal Postal Union.

By some accounts, the term Universal Service was first used by Theodore Vail, the President of AT & T. In the 1910 Annual Report of the company, he described. Universal Service by writing that, the telephone system should be universal, interdependent and intercommunicating, affording opportunity for any subscriber to any exchange to communicate with any other subscriber of any other exchange. In the more modern sense, Universal Service refers to having a phone and affordable phone service in every home. To be more legalistic, universal service means providing telecommunication service with access to a defined minimum service of specified quality to all users everywhere at an affordable price.

The Constitution of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Article 1(d), provides that one of the purposes of the Union is to promote the extension of the benefits of the new telecommunication technologies to all the world's inhabitants

The precise parameters for Universal Service are usually set by national law or regulation, or may be contained in the license of the dominant operator.