Universal service has become a major focus of debate within the telecommunications policy community. However, it has been narrowly focused on how universal service might be sustained and developed in the new competitive environment. As such, it has been supply-led, mainly concerned with financial transfers between suppliers to support the costs of providing service to customers or areas deemed 'uneconomic' and the impacts of new technologies upon those transfers. We take a different approach, posing the broader question: what are the social and economic benefits of a truly universal telephone service? We then use this demandside perspective to readdress the universal policy agenda.