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Ofcom: More than a million homes still can't get decent broadband

Friday, December 16th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Ofcom says the number of Brits unable to get a decent broadband connection has fallen by a million over the past year.

But that still leaves 1.4m homes and offices – around 5% of properties – without access to 10Mbps, which the regulator says is the minimum required to meet a typical household’s digital needs.

People living or working in rural areas are even less likely to have access to the speeds they need, with around a quarter of properties (nearly 920,000) unable to get 10Mbps.

The findings come from Ofcom’s Connected Nations report, an annual look at the state of the UK’s broadband and mobile networks.

According to the report, superfast broadband (speeds of at least 30Mbps) is now available to 89% of home and businesses and is up and running in 31% of premises.

Around seven in 10 premises can receive an indoor 4G signal from all four mobile networks – up from less than a third last year.

Coverage in rural areas and on the UK’s roads and railways remains poor, but total geographic coverage has gone from 8% in 2015 to 40% this year.

Ofcom group director Steve Unger said: “Mobile and broadband coverage continued to grow this year, but too many people and businesses are still struggling for a good service. We think that is unacceptable.

“So we’re challenging mobile operators to go beyond built-up areas, and provide coverage across the UK’s countryside and transport networks.

“Today we’ve also provided technical advice to support the government’s plans for universal, decent broadband.”

Universal Service Obligation

The report sets out three likely scenarios for what the government’s Universal Service Obligation, which will give all UK residents the legal right to decent broadband, will look like.

It says providing standard 10Mbps broadband to the 1.4m premises currently without it will cost around £1.1bn.

A “more highly specified” 10Mbps service with a guaranteed 1Mbps upload speed is currently unavailable to 2.6m homes and would cost around £1.6bn to deliver.

The third option would be to rollout superfast broadband to the 3.5m homes that can’t access it at the moment.

Ofcom estimates a service offering 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload speeds would cost the government £2bn.

It also said it could be necessary to introduce a social tariff in order to reach the most vulnerable consumers such as those on low incomes.

The government has previously said the USO is likely to be demand-led and would prefer it to be funded by industry.

Matt Warman MP, in a debate on the design of the USO in the House of Commons yesterday, said a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to work.

“Connecting the final few per cent of the UK will require an incredible host of diverse solutions from satellite broadband to hopefully full fibre.

“I suspect the reality is not even [BT] will be providing every part of that solution.”

He said the USO should be extended to cover all major roads, railways and train stations, and said the idea that new housing developments are not given access to fibre broadband by default is “daft and short-sighted”.

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