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Government sets deadline for affordable 10Mbps broadband

Ofcom set the task of implementing the rules that ensure everyone in the UK can access affordable high-speed broadband by 2020

All UK citizens will be legally entitled to access to an affordable broadband connection of at least 10Mbps by 2020, the government has announced.

Regulator Ofcom has been set the deadline as part of a broadband universal service obligation (USO).

“Ofcom now has up to two years to implement the scheme, meaning that by 2020, everyone in the UK will have a legal right to an affordable connection of at least 10Mbps, from a designated provider, no matter where they live or work, up to a reasonable cost threshold,” said the government.

Digital minister Margot James said the announcement puts high-speed broadband on a similar footing as other essential services, such as water and phone lines.

The government said that only through a regulatory USO could the “sufficient certainty and legal enforceability” be achieved to ensure high-speed broadband access for the whole of the UK by 2020.

According to Ofcom’s Connected nations 2017 report, 4% of premises are without 10Mbps broadband download, compared with 6% in 2016.

The government said that “95% of the UK already has access to superfast broadband, and the USO will provide a digital safety net for those in the most remote and hardest-to-reach places”.

Read more about the USO

The USO said the cost should not exceed £3,400 for each premises and the minimum speed requirement will be kept under review and is expected to increase over time.

The government and Ofcom will run a process to select the universal service provider(s) that will be required to offer the service, with small as well large providers given an opportunity.

In July 2017, telecoms giant BT made a formal offer to become the designated universal service provider for the USO, which would have cost BT between £450m and £600m. At the time, culture secretary Karen Bradley said the government “warmly welcomed BT’s offer” and would consider it alongside the lengthy consultation on the USO. 

However, Bradley announced in December that the government did not think the offer was strong enough to take the regulatory USO “off the table”. ................................................................................................ ...............................................................................................................

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications

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