Government insists rural broadband rollout won't be a flop

USO's minimum broadband speed will be upped as UK average rises

Countryside

The government has pledged to do more to ensure that those in remote and rural areas of the UK will get a serviceable broadband connection, and that the planned 10Mbps minimum speed specified by the Universal Service Obligation (USO) will be upped in the future as required.

Following the announcement of the fact that homes and businesses in the so-called final 5% of rural Britain will have to request a broadband rollout rather than getting one automatically, which sparked a 'Better Broadband' campaign by the Daily Telegraph, digital economy minister Ed Vaizey responded defensively.

As the Telegraph reports, Vaizey met with Conservative MPs to soothe concerns on the USO and broadband rollout, repeating the fact that 'fast broadband' will be available on request, "putting broadband connections on a par with the obligation to provide a telephone line".

He then noted that the USO would set an "ambition" for speeds of 10Mbps, adding: "And – crucially – as average speeds increase, so the speed of the USO can be increased, so that it keeps pace with what people need."

This addresses the concerns that by the time speeds of 10Mbps arrive universally across the UK, that connection will no longer be fast enough to cope effectively with the average broadband user's needs.

Double trouble

Some experts are guesstimating the average household will need almost double that, at 19Mbps, to cope with bandwidth demands by the year 2023. And it's likely to be 2020 before remote communities can request their broadband rollout, with the implementation naturally going to take some time after that.

Still, Vaizey is certainly making the right noises, even if there's only a vague commitment to keep up with "what people need" in terms of speed increases.

The Local Government Association (an organisation that works on behalf of councils across the UK) and others want a pledge that the minimum speed will be set as a percentage of the average speed across the country, a more concrete marker for what people really need.

We wouldn't hold our breath on that happening though. Vaizey has already said that our USO minimum speed bar has been set higher than anywhere else in Europe.

Other areas of concern still remain, too, such as how the broadband rollout to the final 5% will be funded, and how much the consumer or business requesting connection may have to stump up towards the cost.

Vaizey mentioned that broadband connections would be on a par with telephone lines, and looking at BT's landline phone USO, the consumer pays the first £130 for being hooked up to basic telephone services, with BT then covering the rest up to £3,400. However, further costs are payable by the home owner.

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