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High speed broadband to become legal right in UK

By Oliver Haill

Date: Wednesday 20 Dec 2017

High speed broadband to become legal right in UK

(ShareCast News) - High speed broadband is to be made a legal right for all UK households, the government proposed on Wednesday, though experts suggested the new regulatory 'universal service obligation' is likely to result in a levy on providers and higher bills for everyone.
Under the USO, everyone in the UK will have access to speeds of at least 10mb per second by 2020, a speed that regulator Ofcom has calculated as a minimum requirement needed for an average family.

The government has resorted to regulation as BT's voluntary proposal to deliver universal broadband was not considered strong enough.

Full detail has not been given on how the process will work in practice and how it will be funded, with industry experts suggesting the financial burden is likely to be covered by a levy on all broadband providers, which could lead to consumer broadband bills potentially increasing somewhere in the region of an extra £1 per month.

"The government believes that only a regulatory USO offers sufficient certainty and the legal enforceability that is required to ensure high speed broadband access for the whole of the UK by 2020. However, we welcome BT's continued investment to deliver broadband to all parts of the UK."

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said: "We know how important broadband is to homes and businesses and we want everyone to benefit from a fast and reliable connection. We are grateful to BT for their proposal but have decided that only a regulatory approach will make high speed broadband a reality for everyone in the UK, regardless of where they live or work."

Under the proposals, consumers who can't currently access decent broadband will be able to request a service that must deliver download speeds of at least 10Mbps, explained Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at uSwitch.

"Today's announcement will no doubt be seen as good news by consumers in rural areas that have been left without decent broadband," he said.

Without full detail from Ofcom and government on how the USO will be funded, Neudegg said: "The financial burden will likely be covered by a levy from all broadband providers so we should expect an impact on consumer bills. We could be looking at broadband bills potentially increasing somewhere in the region of an extra £1 per month."

Research by uSwitch has found that one in five people have broadband speeds of less than 10Mbps, with 8.6% enduring slower speeds than 5Mbps.

"But consumers must not confuse today's announcement with a legal minimum for standard broadband connections across the country. While superfast services are available to more than 95% of premises, there are still large numbers of consumers failing to achieve these speeds on their standard connections. These consumers will need to upgrade to superfast broadband services if they want more than 10Mbps," Neudegg said.

"Let's make it clear - the proposals announced today will only benefit areas that can't otherwise achieve these speeds, for example through fibre-based services. The broadband USO will only be a 'right to request' - it won't be automatic and there will likely be a threshold that could exclude the most remote homes.

"It will likely be 2020 before this formally comes in, so it is critical that commercial investment in upgrading broadband continues ahead of any changes. Industry must not be complacent and we must ensure all consumers are brought along on the journey, and are able to benefit from faster more reliable broadband services."


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