Out-Law News 1 min. read

UK homes and businesses to get right to 'fast broadband'

The UK government has outlined plans to provide people and businesses across the country with a right to "fast broadband".

Access to broadband will be put "on a similar footing as other basic services like water and electricity", a government statement said. The plans will be underpinned by the introduction of a new universal service obligation (USO) for broadband, it said.

In its statement, the government said that homes and businesses across the UK will have a "legal right to request a connection to broadband with speeds of 10 Mbps, no matter where they live", by the end of the current parliament in 2020.

The 10 Mbps threshold is higher than the 5 Mbps broadband speeds the government committed to giving the UK public a legal entitlement to access at "an affordable price" in a report issued in March. The existing USO for internet access requires that the public is given access to internet services at speeds of at least 28.8 Kbps, which is equivalent to a basic dial-up connection.

"Access to the internet shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a right – absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain," prime minister David Cameron said. "That is why I’m announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain. Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it. That’s right: we’re getting Britain – all of Britain – online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe."

The government said that it plans to consult on the new USO proposals "in early 2016". It said the 10 Mbps broadband speeds broadband providers will be required to deliver under the USO was supported by Ofcom data on the needs of families and businesses. The USO could, however, "be upgraded over time as technology and demand evolve", it said.

An existing government initiative is aimed at delivering superfast broadband service availability to 95% of UK homes by the end of 2017. Superfast broadband is defined by the government as speeds of 24 Mbps or greater. The government said it is "on track" to reach its target and that three million homes and businesses in the UK already have access to such services.

Culture secretary John Whittingdale said: "Coverage has already reached more than 83% of UK homes and businesses. By next month, 3.5 million more UK homes and businesses will have access to superfast speeds."

Earlier this year, the government outlined plans to "bring ultrafast broadband of at least 100 Mbps to nearly all homes in the country" and suggested that mobile broadband technologies, alongside new and faster fixed-line internet service technologies, could be relied upon to achieve that goal.

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