Clock ticking for Universal High Speed BroadbandSarah Shepherd
Government today laid legislation setting the design of the broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO). This follows Government confirmation in December last year that having access to high speed broadband would be a legal right.
Minister for Digital Margot James said:
“In the 21st century, accessing the internet is a necessity not a luxury. We are building a Britain that is fit for the future, and we’re now putting high speed broadband on a similar footing as other essential services like water and phone lines.”
Ofcom will now have 2 years to see the scheme implemented. Part of the specification sets the initial minimum download speed at 10Mbps (as designated by Ofcom as the speed required by a typical household) although it is possible that this speed will be increased over time. Other specifications for the USO design include a cost threshold of £3.400 – which is expected to see coverage reach 99.8% of premises. Where the cost exceeds this consumers will be able to choose between covering the rest of the cost themselves or choosing a satellite connection.
There will also be a requirement for demand aggregation, with the aim of ensuring that the maximum number of connections are enabled. Industry is to fund the USO and pricing will be set at a uniform rate to ensure that those connected commercially are not paying less.
Whilst high speed broadband is already available to 95% of the UK, the remaining unconnected would be served under the USO.
The BSG will continue to work with Government and Ofcom on the process of designing and implementing the scheme. The next step for Ofcom will be to set up an industry fund to support the delivery and the running of the process to designate the universal service provider(s).
Responses to the consultation on the design were also published today.