The Minister sent me this letter to answer rumours that the government is giving up support for fast broadband for the 5% most difficult parts of the network:
You may have read stories in the press last week suggesting the Government has abandoned its commitment to giving all households in the UK access to fast broadband.
This is not correct.
When we came to office in 2010, only 45 per cent of the country had access to superfast broadband. Today, we have provided superfast broadband access to 90 per cent of the UK – some additional 4 million homes and businesses. By the end of next year, we will have reached 95 per cent. This is a result of £1.7 billion of investment from the Government, local councils, the devolved administrations and BT.
And we have always been clear that we would not stop there, and would continue working to connect rural areas. That is why we plan to bring in legislation that will bring broadband to the remaining 5% hardest-to-reach areas. People and businesses in those areas will have a legal entitlement to request fast broadband, and up to a reasonable cost threshold, they must be provided with it. We have already consulted on this, and the consultation document can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/broadband-universal-service-obligation.
The UK now leads Europe on broadband speed, coverage, price and competition. And our Broadband Universal Service Obligation for the final 5% will set an ambition for speeds of 10mbps – the speed needed to meet the demands of today’s typical family and many small businesses. This is higher than anywhere else in Europe. For example, Spain and Finland set their USO speed at just 1mbps. And – crucially – as average speeds increase, so the speed of the USO can be increased, so that it keeps pace with what people need.
As we made clear in our consultation document in March, this new Broadband Service Obligation means that fast broadband will be available on request, putting broadband connections on a par with the obligation to provide a telephone line. Just as there is for telephone lines, there will need to be a cap on the cost that the universal service provider or providers can be reasonably expected to pay.
We will consult on the exact detail of this aspect of the Obligation once the legislation is in place, and I will make sure that consultation is flagged up to you. So be in no doubt, the PM’s commitment is firmly in place. And it is a commitment that forms a key part of the Government’s intention to move the whole country forward with our broadband rollout.
I hope this letter helps to allay any concerns about this Government’s commitment to introducing a USO.
(If constituents have difficulties with broadband service please let me know so I can take it up with the government or provider.)