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House of Lords votes in favour of 30Mbps broadband USO

Thursday, February 23rd 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The Digital Economy Bill could be amended to give everyone in the UK the legal right to 30Mbps broadband.

A new Universal Service Obligation (USO) has always been a key part of the Bill and the government had suggested setting the minimum speed at 10Mbps.

But Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn, tabling an amendment in the House of Lords yesterday, said 10Mbps would be “unfit for usage in a very short time”.

The Lords voted in favour of his amendment, which will see download speeds of 30Mbps and upload speeds of 6Mbps made available to every household in the UK by 2020.

As well as including a “minimum standard” of 30Mbps, the amendment includes a target for broadband connection speeds of “two gigabits or more” and demands a focus on small businesses and rural areas.

Lord Mendelsohn said the economic case for spending £2bn on a 30Mbps USO compared to £1.1bn on a 10Mbps USO is “extraordinarily well justified”.

Those were two of the “likely scenarios” for the USO set out by Ofcom in December.

The telecoms regulator has also said the USO should include a social tariff in order to reach the most vulnerable members of society such as those on low incomes.

The House of Lords also last night backed plans to cap monthly mobile phone bills by stopping people making calls when they hit their limit.

An amendment moved by Lib Dem peer Lord Clement-Jones gives mobile phone users the ability to opt-in to a cap, the amount of which would be agreed with their provider.

The amendment would also give Ofcom the “explicit power” to introduce 'gaining provider-led switching rules' similar to those introduced for consumers switching between broadband companies.

Changes made in the House of Lords will still need to be approved by MPs in order to form part of the final Bill.

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John de Rivaz
23rd February 2017

More important in my view would be to outlaw the practise of making it difficult for consumers to switch broadband provider by shutting them off for weeks or even months before a change is made.

At present the outgoing provider can issue a job order for BT to shut them off a long time before the incoming provider issues a job order for BT to connect them. This bureaucratic practise should be banned.

If, for example, you buy a new fridge the company providing it delivers the new one and removes the old one at the same time. Why not the same with broadband?

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