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What is the Universal Service Obligation?

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Last updated: 01 March 2022

The Universal Service Obligation (USO) gives every home in the UK the legal right to request “decent and affordable” broadband. It’s intended to bring faster internet to the 600,000 or so rural properties receiving download speeds under 10Mbps, or not connected to any fixed broadband network at all.

The USO came into force in March 2020. From that date, if households aren’t receiving broadband with speeds of at least 10Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream, they can request service from BT, or KCOM if they’re in in Hull.

In many cases, the installation of a new line to deliver this service will be free of charge for the consumer. The installation should also be delivered as quickly as possible. BT and KCOM are required to connect 80% of successful applicants within 12 months of their request and 95% within 18 months.

Once your property is connected through the USO, your monthly broadband bills can’t be more than £45 per month. You’ll also receive the same quality of service as customers not connected through the USO.

However, there are some catches: if the cost of installing that connection exceeds £3,400, households will be asked to make up the difference.

In the first year of the USO, this led to some remote households being quoted up to £100,000 to be connected. Telecoms regulator Ofcom, which oversees the USO, later clarified that if several homes and businesses can share network infrastructure, the total cost of installation should be divided among all premises that would benefit.


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Lauren Smith

Author: Lauren Smith

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