Every resident in the UK will have the legal right to a ‘decent’ broadband connection at an affordable price by March 2020.
The latest development has been confirmed by Ofcom and will mean that everyone has the right to access download speeds of at least 10mbps and upload speeds of at least 1mbps. These speeds are not set in stone however and Ofcom has said that they could differ in the future as data usage changes.
Ofcom consumer group director Lindsey Fussell said: “As more of our daily lives move online, bringing better broadband to people and businesses is crucial. From next year, this new broadband safety net will give everyone a legal right to request a decent connection – whether you live in a city or a hamlet. This will be vital for people who are struggling to get the broadband they need.”
Once someone makes a request, one of the two designated providers (KCOM for Hull and BT for the rest of the UK) will have one month to decide on whether the customer is a suitable candidate. The decision process is based around whether the premises already has access to suitable broadband, or is already set to be hooked up via one of the many existing government funded plans. If the candidate is eligible, then up to £3,400 of the installation costs will be paid for by the government, anything over that will either come as an additional cost to the customer or they can seek alternative solutions such as satellite broadband.
BT CEO Philip Jansen said: “BT is very pleased to have been chosen by Ofcom to deliver the Government’s promise to connect the UK. It’s great news that the majority of homes and businesses in rural areas can choose a fixed wireless service from EE to solve the problem of slow broadband and get speeds way faster than 10Mbps.
“Through Openreach we are now extending our fibre broadband network to reach an additional 40,000 premises within the USO area for whom FWA is not the answer. We’ll continue to drive discussions with Ofcom, Government and industry to explore alternative options to connect up every property in the country and ensure no-one is left behind.”
The news will be welcomed with open arms by many in rural communities who have been stuck with sub-standard internet for quite some time. Plans to connect rural areas to high speed broadband have hit roadblocks in the form of disproportionately high access and installation costs, as well as reluctance from telecoms providers to reach out to less highly dense areas. Consumer groups were also quick to praise the initiative, but as Caroline Normand from Which? points out, many have been waiting extremely long times to get connected.
“Too many people have been waiting for far too long to get good enough broadband to carry out even the most basic online tasks. So, it’s disappointing that some people may have to wait up to another 24 months to receive their USO connection.
“Requesting a connection must be a simple process that leads to consumers getting the broadband they need without unnecessary hassle – with the regulator holding both providers to account and ensuring they face significant penalties if they fail to deliver,” she said.
Her comments do not come without merit – Openreach has found itself in hot water over the last few years as constant delays and setbacks resulted in vastly protracted timeframes for many fibre rollouts across the UK. Government schemes aimed at encouraging investment in fibre have also been employed to provide some relief for the more far flung locations but this new pledge which is expected to effect around 620,000 homes and offices in the UK should help to finish the job. Customers connected through the new scheme can also rest assured that they will be paying the same amount as others on similar plans and will not have to pay a premium.