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BT and KCOM confirmed as broadband USO providers

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Ofcom has confirmed that BT and KCOM will deliver the Universal Service Obligation (USO), allowing anyone in the UK to demand to request a minimum standard of broadband connection.

The regulator proposed the two companies would be responsible for delivering the USO back in December, with KCOM responsible for the Hull area and BT the rest of the UK.

Commercial and government-funded rollouts of superfast broadband mean that 95 per cent of the UK population now has access to fibre services, however Ofcom believes more than 600,000 homes and businesses are not covered.

This figure will come down over time as more people are added through fibre broadband rollouts.

Broadband USO

The USO will initially define a minimum standard as a 10Mbps service, although it’s possible that this could be increased in the future. BT and KCOM have until 20 March 2020 to ensure their systems and processes are in place to receive requests.

Once a request is received, the providers have 30 days to see if an applicant is eligible, after which they must make the connection as soon as possible. The government will cover the costs up to a limit of £3,400, after which the applicant must pay the remainder or seek an alternative technology, such as satellite.

It will also be possible for neighbours to club together to make joint applications in order to bring the cost down.

“As more of our daily lives move online, bringing better broadband to people and businesses is crucial,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom Consumer Group Director. “From next year, this new broadband safety net will give everyone a legal right to request a decent connection – whether you live in a city or a hamlet. This will be vital for people who are struggling to get the broadband they need.”

BT believes it can connect three quarters of those eligible using EE’s 4G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) service, with speeds of up to 30Mbps, and believes another 40,000 can be connected under the £3,400 threshold. It says it will work to find ways to find funding to connect the remainder.

“It’s great news that the majority of homes and businesses in rural areas can choose a fixed wireless service from EE to solve the problem of slow broadband and get speeds way faster than 10Mbps,” declared Philip Jansen, BT CEO.

“Through Openreach we are now extending our fibre broadband network to reach an additional 40,000 premises within the USO area for whom FWA is not the answer. We’ll continue to drive discussions with Ofcom, Government and industry to explore alternative options to connect up every property in the country and ensure no-one is left behind.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.