Homes and businesses will have a legal right to demand high-speed broadband by 2020, the government has said. It has promised that the whole of the UK will have access to speeds of at least 10 Mbps by 2020.
Poor connections are a concern for small businesses, with almost 230,000 unable to get a decent service in rural and urban blackspots. According to the Regulator Ofcom ‘4% of UK premises, or about 1.1 million, could not access broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps’.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said only a universal service obligation (USO) would offer certainty that broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps would reach the whole of the UK by 2020.
BT, which is responsible for the infrastructure, had previously offered to carry out improvements according to its own time frame. But the company said it accepted the government's decision.
In response to the announcement, BT said: "BT and Openreach want to get on with the job of making decent broadband available to everyone in the UK, so we'll continue to explore the commercial options for bringing faster speeds to those parts of the country which are hardest to reach."
Under the plan, broadband providers will face a legal requirement to provide high-speed broadband to anyone requesting it, subject to a cost threshold.
But now it is far from clear who will provide this Universal Service Obligation - the government hopes new providers will come in alongside BT's Openreach - or what technology will be employed.
New fast fibre firms are now competing in the cities, but the 1.1 million homes and offices Ofcom says still cannot get a 10Mbps service are mainly in rural areas, and it is not clear they will be keen to lay cables along every lane.
Now it is the regulator's job to make sure this all works.
There are now two years to push through new legislation, work out how to police it, and determine what is a reasonable cost threshold for hooking up remote homes.
Following the introduction of secondary legislation early next year, it is thought it will take another two years before the right is enforced by Ofcom.
Under BT's offer, which the company had said would cost up to £600m, 98.5% of premises would have had access to a fixed broadband service in 2020.
Another 0.7% would have access to a service delivered by a combination of fixed and wireless connections.
The remaining 0.8% in the most difficult-to-reach areas would have been guided toward satellite or on-demand fibre solutions
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