BT has told MPs that it will take full responsibility for ensuring that a minimum broadband speed of 10Mbps is achieved throughout the whole of the UK by the year 2020.
The telecoms giant made the promise during a debate on the Digital Economy Bill, making it clear that the government’s targeted USO (universal service obligation) of 10Mbps would be reached before the end of the decade – and that no further public funding would be required to progress the rollout.
As Computer Weekly reports, Sean Williams, MD of Strategy, Portfolio, Legal and Regulatory Services at BT, told the MPs: “We are willing to commit to 100% coverage by 2020. Our objective here is to give Ofcom and the government comfort it can be done. For our part, we are willing to take this on to make sure every single premises can get 10Mbps by 2020.”
BT believes that it can bring FTTC (fibre-to-the-cabinet, where the majority of the connection is fibre, save for the last length of phone line from the street cabinet to the house or office) to 97% or 98% of premises across the country by 2020, and the firm asserts that these customers will achieve the government’s definition of superfast: 24Mbps (or more).
So the 10Mbps bare minimum USO speed would likely only apply to 1% of premises, and the remaining 1% in really out-of-the-way locations will get their faster connection either via satellite broadband or 4G.
More must be done
Unsurprisingly, rival ISPs present at the meeting weren’t happy with the suggestion that 10Mbps was a palatable speed for anyone to be running with come the year 2020. And of course they urged that Openreach (BT’s division which looks after broadband infrastructure) should be split off entirely from BT to make for a fairer and more level playing field for the competition – and thus swifter progress in rolling out faster connections.
Such a divorce has been high on the agenda since last summer, but for the moment, Ofcom has been content to merely put pressure on BT to make Openreach a more distinct entity (while still remaining within the organisation).
Doubtless this latest reassurance to MPs is all part of the argument that everything is running fine and the status quo should be maintained with BT.
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