10Mbps broadband will soon be a legal right in the UK

Ask anyone in the UK about their broadband and you’re unlikely to get a particularly effusive response. Every year Ofcom releases reports about unsatisfactory broadband speeds and for the past 10 years the UK government has been taking steps to establish a basic and ubiquitous level of service across the country. 

In the 2017 Digital Economy Act, the government stated it wanted to develop a Universal Service Obligation which would allow every UK resident to be able to demand at least a 10Mbps from providers, even if they live in remote areas. 

Initially BT offered to spend up to £600 million in order to extend at least a 10Mbps connection to more than 1.4 million rural residents but in a recent statement, the government has decided to opt for regulations rather than agreements. 

The right to demand

In the statement, it was said the reason for this was that it would provide “sufficient certainty and the legal enforceability that is required to ensure high speed broadband access for the whole of the UK by 2020.”

According to the Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, the government understands how “important broadband is to homes and businesses” and it wants “everyone to benefit from a fast and reliable connection.”

With this decision now made, the government will establish exactly what its Universal Service Obligation will include with the expectation that the legislation will be passed in early 2018. With the legislation in place, it will then take around two years to make the minimum expected speeds a reality.

While this is probably not the outcome BT was hoping for, it’s likely to be more positive for internet users. When minimum speeds are legislatively regulated across the board and not only provided by BT, there’s more of a chance that every household will have access to the broadband it needs when it's asked for.

10Mbps is truly a minimum definition of high-speed, and fixed line super-fast broadband connections capable of speeds of at least 24Mbps are already available in around 95% of UK homes and businesses. 

This is expected to increase to 98% by 2020, but the regulations mean that even the small number of UK premises that are missed will be guaranteed a reliable enough service connection to at least watch Netflix.

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.