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CLA: Give rural broadband customers compensation if they can't get 10Mbps

Wednesday, April 20th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

Anyone who finds themselves unable to get the minimum 10Mbps broadband promised by the government should be entitled to compensation, the CLA said.

The CLA’s call comes as a government consultation — the first step towards the introduction of a broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) – closed on Monday.

It follows an announcement by the Prime Minister in November that the government planned to introduce a USO, which would give everyone the right to broadband speeds 10Mbps, by 2020.

Ed Vaizey last week told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that the proposed USO might not necessarily cover everyone if a particular connection proved too expensive.

Asked by MPs about the plans, the digital minister admitted there could be a “potential cap” on how much funding would be available for a connection if it were to cost “many, many thousands of pounds”.

In a statement following the closure of the government consultation, the CLA – which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses – said anyone who is denied the right to fast, reliable and affordable broadband should be given compensation.

The body, which has regularly called for better broadband in rural areas, also underlined the importance of applying a mix of technologies to make sure coverage reaches every rural home and business.

CLA president Ross Murray said: “People living and working in the countryside have been putting up with poor or non-existent broadband service for too long because connecting them can be harder and not as profitable for infrastructure providers.

“This has made their lives more difficult and has put their businesses at a disadvantage – poor broadband is one of the greatest barriers to growth in the rural economy.”

'Technical hurdle'

He said currently just half of rural homes and businesses can receive broadband speeds of 10Mbps – while 96% in urban areas can.

“This is the greatest technical hurdle that rural Britain is currently facing.

“The government’s commitment to putting in place a USO of 10Mbps from 2020 was a real win for rural people, but it will only be meaningful if fast, reliable and affordable broadband is made a legal right.

“If people are denied this legal right, they should have access to proportionate compensation.”

Mr Murray said it would be difficult to reach 100% of people and businesses – especially in remote areas – through fibre technology alone and it is “crucial” that other broadband technologies are used to deliver universal coverage.

Last month, Ofcom’s UK Home Broadband Performance report highlighted the gap between broadband speeds and urban and rural areas, with people in cities and towns getting speeds three times as fast as their rural counterparts.

The report revealed that while average download speeds in rural areas were 13.7Mbps, those in urban areas were more than three times that, at 50.5Mbps.

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