Whole of UK to get faster broadband by 2020
The ‘Universal Service Obligation’ means the whole of the UK will have access to broadband with speeds of at least 10 Mbps by 2020.
In announcing the move, the government rejected a voluntary offer from BT, who had wanted to carry out the infrastructure improvements at its own pace. Along with other providers, it will now have to provide these minimum speeds to anyone requesting it.
At the moment, around 4% of UK businesses – equivalent to 1.1 million – don’t have access to broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps.
The average broadband speed in the country is currently 28.9Mbps, according to regulator, Ofcom.
The Country Land & Business Association (CLA) senior rural business adviser, Dr Charles Trotman, said: “The challenges of rolling out fast, reliable and affordable rural broadband are well known but have been recognised by the government with the commitment to provide a universal service obligation of at least 10 Mbps from 2020.
“For too long, rural areas have been at the back of the queue when it comes to investment in infrastructure and that is why this legal principle is not something to compromise on. Rural areas now stand a better chance of receiving a decent broadband service without BT monopolising the market and deciding its own terms for connection.
“It is vital for the government to move as swiftly as possible towards meeting its objective of universal coverage in 2020 and to ensure legal guarantees are set for any future universal obligation. Ten Mbps is only a benchmark minimum speed which is sufficient now but as technology advances, it could be too slow in just five years’ time.”
Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at uSwitch.com, said the announcement will no doubt be seen as good news by consumers in rural areas that have been left without decent broadband.
But he added: “Let’s make it clear – the proposals 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.”