High speed broadband to become a legal right

The Government has confirmed that universal high speed broadband will be delivered by a regulatory Universal Service Obligation (USO), giving everyone in the UK access to speeds of at least 10 Mbps by 2020.

This is the speed that Ofcom, the independent regulator, says is needed to meet the requirements of an average family. After careful consideration the government has decided that regulation is the best way of making sure everyone in the UK can get a broadband connection of at least 10 Mbps as soon as possible.

Following the creation of new powers when the Government passed the Digital Economy Act 2017, a consultation on the design of the regulatory USO was launched in the summer. The Government will now set out the design for a legal right to high speed broadband in secondary legislation early next year, alongside detailed response to the consultation.

Ofcom’s implementation is expected to take two years from the date secondary legislation is finalised, meeting the Government’s commitment of giving everyone access to high speed broadband by 2020.

This regulatory approach also brings a number of other advantages for the consumer:

  • the minimum speed of connection can be increased over time as consumers’ connectivity requirements evolve;
  • it provides for greater enforcement to help ensure households and businesses do get connected
  • the scheme will maximise the provision of fixed line connections in the hardest to reach areas.
  • places a legal requirement for high speed broadband to be provided to anyone requesting it, subject to a cost threshold (in the same way the universal service right to a landline telephone works)

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.

“This is all part of our work on ensuring that Britain’s telecoms infrastructure is fit for the future and will continue to deliver the connectivity that consumers need in the digital age.”

Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission Lord Adonis welcomed the plans: “With more and more services available online only, having access to a fast, reliable broadband speed is essential for residents and businesses alike.

“Introducing a Universal Service Obligation was one of 12 infrastructure priorities we identified in June, so I’m pleased to see the Government taking action which will give people a legal right to minimum speeds by 2020.

“But in the meantime, there are communities suffering poor broadband and mobile services now that need help – which is why I’ve written to Ofcom urging them to work urgently with Government to find some immediate solutions to this pressing issue.

“Our forthcoming National Infrastructure Assessment – the first of its kind for our country – will also look at the longer-term investments needed as our demands for ever-greater speeds continues.”

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