Public Services > Central Government

DCMS launches universal high speed broadband consultation

Matteo Natalucci Published 31 July 2017

Government to review voluntary BT proposal alongside consultation on regulatory Universal Service Obligation


Culture secretary Karen Bradley today launched a consultation over the government’s plans to introduce a Universal Service Obligation (USO) through regulation to give every UK home and business the right to request a high speed connection of at least 10 megabits per second (Mbps).

The government said it has received an offer from BT to “voluntarily provide this service”, with the service delivered by Openreach, the once BT network unit which, after two years of negotiations with communications regulator Ofcom, is now a BT subsidiary with its own staff, board and control of the network.

The government suggested the BT proposal would mean many premises will receive substantially more than 10Mbps, with homes and businesses expected to receive connections more quickly than could be delivered under a regulatory approach. The government said it will consider the offer alongside the consultation on the regulatory USO.

Bradley said, “The government is taking action to ensure that people everywhere in the UK can get a decent broadband connection as soon as possible. We warmly welcome BT’s offer and now will look at whether this or a regulatory approach works better for homes and businesses.

“Whichever of the two approaches we go with in the end, the driving force behind our decision making will be making sure we get the best deal for consumers.”

The government said communications regulator, Ofcom, has advised that 10Mbps, with quality requirements to limit delays and support uploading content as well as downloading it, meets the needs of a typical household. It will also provide improved connectivity for many small businesses.

A regulatory USO, it said, would provide a safety net, meaning that fast and reliable broadband was available to everyone, regardless of where they lived. The government said the consultation being launched today outlined detailed proposals for how this new right to request a connection would work in practice.

It said the consultation would help government take a decision on the best way to get better broadband in hard-to-reach areas. The government said no decision has yet been taken, and it will carefully weigh the merits of the two approaches. Unlike under a regulatory USO, the proposal from BT is to proactively build the necessary network infrastructure to connect the majority of households and businesses rather than wait for this to be done on request.

BT proposes to use a range of technologies to deliver the infrastructure, including fibre to the cabinet, fibre to the home and fixed wireless. Fixed wireless is expected to be made available at an affordable price for hard to reach premises.

It expects to fund the investment and recover its costs through charges for products providing access to its local access networks. The approach to recovering these costs will be considered in Ofcom’s current wholesale local access review.

BT chief executive Gavin Patterson said, “We are pleased to make a voluntary offer to deliver the Government’s goal for universal broadband access at minimum speeds of 10Mbps. This would involve an estimated investment of £450m - £600m depending on the final technology solution.”

He continued, “This investment will reinforce the UK’s status as the leading digital economy in the G20. We already expect 95% of homes and businesses to have access to superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps or faster by the end of 2017. Our latest initiative aims to ensure that all UK premises can get faster broadband, even in the hardest to reach parts of the UK.

The government said it will work with BT over the coming months to develop the proposal, which, if it is accepted, would be legally-binding.


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