BROADBAND BOOST – Legal right to demand high speed internet by 2020

Homes and businesses across the UK have been promised access to broadband with speeds of at least 10 Mbps by 2020.

And providers have a legal requirement to give high speed broadband to anyone who requests it, no matter where they are in the UK.

The broadband pledge is thanks to the Universal Service Obligation (USO) announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport today.

BT had previously offered to deliver universal broadband through a voluntary agreement instead but that proposal was rejected.

The BT-owned Openreach had offered to improve broadband access to 1.4million rural homes.

However, the Government said it did not feel the proposal was “strong enough”  to take the regulatory USO option off the table.

Culture secretary Karen Bradley said she was grateful for BT’s proposal but decided only a regulatory approach would ensure high-speed broadband for everyone.

She said: “We know how important broadband is to homes and businesses and we want everyone to benefit from a fast and reliable connection.”

Telecommunications giant BT, which provides broadband to its own customers and other suppliers via its Openreach network, said it respected the Government’s decision.

It 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.

“We look forward to receiving more details from the government outlining its approach to defining the regulatory USO, including the proposed funding mechanism.” 

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Matt Hancock, minister for Digital, said: “Access means you can phone up somebody, ask for it and then someone has the legal duty to deliver on that promise.”

He also said the regulatory USO would not mean high-speed broadband was automatically delivered to every property. 

He said: “It is about having the right to demand it, so it will be an on-demand programme.

“It’s an on-demand programme. If you don’t go on the internet and aren’t interested then you won’t phone up and demand this.

“The ‘access’ is being able to demand it.”

Mr Hancock added: “This is the next big drive we have got to do as a country. 

“Our rollout of super-fast has been the fastest among comparable countries. 

“The drive to get the full fibre connections, the future-proof connections, started only a year ago. 

“I’m absolutely determined to see that rolled out.”

Regulator Ofcom had previously said four per cent of UK premises could not access broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps.

This amounts to around 1.1million premises in Britain.

Ofcom added that poor connections were an issue for small businesses, with almost 230,000 unable to get a decent service.