UK government makes 10Mbps Universal Broadband Obligation

Conceptual image of shoppers overlaid onto UK flag.; Shutterstock ID 140926093; PO: GED Blog Webseite; Job: 103-64119-133; Client: Bertelsmann Stiftung; Other: ST-NW 04.02.2016

As the UK government announced a new “legal right” to fast broadband, UK telecoms regulator Ofcom is to release a new app to allow the public to gauge the real level of broadband speed being offered.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that work is starting on a broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO), which is described as an “ambition to give people the legal right” to request a connection to broadband with speeds of 10 Mbps, no matter where they live.

Three million homes and businesses across the UK already have access to superfast speeds of 24 Mbps or more, Cameron claimed. By next month, 3.5 million more UK homes and businesses will have access to superfast speeds and the UK is on track to reach 95% of homes with superfast broadband by the end of 2017, he claimed.

However, the actual speeds of broadband delivered is a matter of contention with some consumer groups, with comparison sites such as Broadband Choice often questioning whether the actual data rates delivered to customer match the claims made by broadband service providers.

Cameron said the government aims to combat this by enforcing greater transparency. “Later this year, Ofcom will release a new mobile app so that consumers will be able to check if their home Wi-Fi is working as it should be. They are also planning to release even more detailed, address-level mobile and broadband speed data next year. This will help people make more informed decisions about things like moving home or starting a business,” said Cameron.

Driving better coverage into the last 5% of homes who don’t get superfast broadband will be a complex but critical task, warned Matthew Evans, CEO of the Broadband Stakeholder Group. He argued that the government’s USO should be just one of a range of options. “More can still be done to drive private investment in digital infrastructure and it is important that this work continues,” said Evans.

The Ofcom app may be crucial as the figures for broadband performance need to be scrutinised more carefully, according to Raj Sivalingam, executive director of techUK. “The Government is right to set the ambition but one size will not fit all in terms of the choice of services across the country,” said Sivalingham, “There are a number of geographic and population factors that affect this and a variety of technologies.”

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