Network providers in Britain would have to mandatorily provide internet users with high-speed broadband by 2020 as the government will make this a legal right, the UK government announced and dismissed pleas from service providers to keep it voluntary.
The government aims to achieve a minimum broadband speed of 10Mbps to be available throughout the country by 2020 through the universal service obligation (USO), said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Irrespective of the location of the users, it would become legally mandatory for broadband providers to offer high-speed broadband to anyone who requests it.
Service provider BT had said that a legislation of reducing the digital gap between the cities and the rural areas would slow down the pledges of such attempts of doing so voluntarily.
However, the department said it did “not feel the proposal was strong enough for us to take the regulatory USO off the table, and have therefore decided not to pursue BT’s proposal, in favour of providing a legal right to broadband”.
The only way to ensure that high-speed broadband is able to be accessed by everyone in the country irrespective of the place was through a regulatory approach, said the culture secretary, Karen Bradley, while expressing satisfaction at the proposal that was made by BT.
“We know how important broadband is to homes and businesses and we want everyone to benefit from a fast and reliable connection,” she said.
It would respect the government decision, said BT. It is the primary broadband service provider in the country and serves its own customers as well other suppliers through its Openreach network.
“BT and Openreach want to get on with the job of making decent broadband available to everyone in the UK, so we’ll continue to explore the commercial options for bringing faster speeds to those parts of the country which are hardest to reach,” it said.
“We look forward to receiving more details from the government outlining its approach to defining the regulatory USO, including the proposed funding mechanism.”
The automatic delivery of high-speed broadband is now however ensured at every property by the rollout, said the digital minister, Matt Hancock. “It’s about having the right to demand it. It’s an on-demand programme. If you don’t go on the internet and aren’t interested then you won’t phone up and demand this,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “The ‘access’ is being able to demand it.”
Hancock admitted there was a large gap in the level of broadband services available for the UK in comparison to many other parts of the world. for example, 97% of connections have full-fibre lines in Japan while the number of is just 3% in the UK.
“This is the next big drive we have got to do as a country,” he said. “Our rollout of super-fast has been the fastest among comparable countries. The drive to get the full fibre connections, the future-proof connections, started only a year ago. I’m absolutely determined to see that rolled out.”
(Adapted from The Guardian)