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Queen's Speech: UK consumers will have legal right to fast broadband

Wednesday, May 18th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Every British household will have the legal right to fast broadband, it was confirmed in the Queen’s Speech today.

The government has also set out new rules to make building broadband infrastructure easier and to give consumers the right to automatic compensation when their broadband service goes wrong.

The Queen, opening the second session of Parliament earlier, said: “Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband.”

The piece of legislation behind that statement is the Digital Economy Bill, which aims to make the UK “a world leader in digital provision”.

It includes a new Universal Service Obligation (USO), which, as promised by Prime Minister David Cameron in November, will give everyone the right to a broadband connection of at least 10Mbps.

Ofcom will also be given the power to review the speed over time “to make sure it is still sufficient for modern life”.

According to the bill, a USO set at 10Mbps could benefit up to a million UK premises at risk of being left behind by the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.

James Blessing, chairman of the Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA), welcomed the government’s focus on the digital economy.

“The internet industry has invested significantly in making the UK a world leader in digital provision and will continue to do so and so we support government action to remove barriers to rollout.

“We further support the principle of universal broadband, but there remain a number questions surrounding the USO that still need to be addressed, including funding and the impact on the market, so that the benefits of broadband can be felt as widely and effectively as possible.”

'Red tape'

Also included in the bill is a new Electronic Communications Code (ECC) and simpler planning rules, which will make it easier and cheaper for providers to build broadband infrastructure.

Ofcom will also be given new powers to make it easier for people to switch providers, while consumers will have the right to automatic compensation when their broadband service goes wrong.

The government said changes to the ECC will result in savings of more than £1bn across the industry over 20 years – savings that will hopefully be passed onto consumers.

Mr Blessing said ISPA will “await further information on consumer measures, including automatic compensation, including how this will fit with the existing consumer redress framework.”

Virgin Media’s CEO Tom Mockridge said the government should be applauded for reforming the ECC.

“Cutting through the planning red tape will help us invest where demand for ultrafast broadband is greatest,” he said. “Local authorities and land owners now need to work with us to grant permissions.”

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