In a potential shot in the arm to the rollout of online video and IPTV services in the country, the UK Government has confirmed it is giving everyone in the UK access to broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps by 2020.
By setting up a regulatory universal service obligation (USO), the UK Government has rejected proposals by BT to make provision part of a voluntary agreement. The incumbent operator has frustrated many in non-urban areas by the general lack of high speed broadband access. In November 2016, UK telecoms regular Ofcom formally presented BT with a formal notification to require the legal separation of its Openreach broadband provision division from its parent company in order to address what became a political issue, and indeed became a manifesto commitment by the Conservative Party in the 2017 UK General Election.
In explaining its decision, the UK Government said that after careful consideration the government has decided that regulation is the best way of making sure everyone in the UK can 'demand', not be assured of, access to what it says is 'decent broadband connection' of at least 10 Mbps as soon as possible. This is the speed that Ofcom says is needed to meet the requirements of an average family. The falls way short of the guarnateed 'super-fast' broadband access promised in the Conservative manifesto
The UK Government will now set out the design for a legal right to high speed broadband in secondary legislation early next year, alongside a detailed response to the consultation. Ofcom’s implementation is expected to take two years from when secondary legislation is made, thus, asserted the Government, of meeting its election commitment of giving everyone access to high speed broadband by 2020.
Commenting on the ruling, UK 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 [its] 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.”