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Government asks for views on legal right to 10Mbps broadband

Wednesday, March 23rd 2016 by Ellen Branagh

The government is asking for people's thoughts on whether everyone in the UK should have a legal right to 10Mbps broadband.

A four-week consultation, launched today, is asking for views from network operators and internet services providers, as well as consumers and businesses.

The move follows a pledge by Prime Minister David Cameron to give 10Mbps broadband to “every home that wants it”.

Launching the consultation, digital minister Ed Vaizey said a new Universal Service Obligation (USO) would put broadband on an equal footing with services like electricity and water.

“This government has a clear digital agenda, and our ambition is for world-class digital connectivity at ultrafast speeds,” he said.

“As the country continues to take great strides towards ever better connectivity, a broadband USO will help ensure that no-one is left behind – a digital safety net for all.”

But he said even with public funds supporting the superfast broadband rollout, there are pockets of the country where decent connectivity remains an aspiration.

The current Universal Service Commitment (USC) will ensure broadband speeds of at least 2Mbps for every home and business in the country.

But in its consultation document, the government said despite commercial rollouts and the public-funded BDUK superfast broadband programme, up to a million UK premises will not be able to get speeds of 10Mbps or higher by the end of 2017.

This means people in the areas left without access to fast broadband face exclusion from the social and economic opportunities it brings, it said.

'Demand-led'

According to the consultation document, the government favours a “demand-led” approach focused on those who request it, as it is “unlikely that everyone will want to be connected”.

“The government’s ambition is for the minimum speed for a USO to be 10Mbps, which we will look to raise over time. Ofcom, the communications regulator, supports this view.

“Evidence suggests that in 2016 the digital needs of a typical household can be met with download speeds of 10Mbps.”

10Mbps allows people to watch video on demand, listen to internet radio or stream music as well as use social media, access online government services, shop online and work from home, it said.

It will also support small businesses, the government said.

While its long-term vision is for ultrafast broadband services, the broadband USO will provide a “backstop” to make sure everyone gets access to decent broadband, the government said.

It said the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) is commissioning telecoms regulator Ofcom to carry out a detailed analysis of key factors that will help inform the design of the USO.

Ofcom is expected to report on its findings by the end of the year, and after that a second consultation will look at the details of the USO.

The current consultation period is set to end on 18 April.

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