As of March 20, 189,000 businesses and residential properties in the UK can legally demand fast broadband, according to new Ofcom rules.
The UK Broadband Universal Service (USO) scheme gives eligible businesses and homes the legal right to “decent and affordable” broadband, of a minimum speed of 10 megabits per second (Mbit/s) at a maximum cost of £46.10 per month.
Telecoms providers BT and KCOM will be responsible for providing this service. Both companies have agreed to cover the cost of connecting a property, if it comes to £3,400 or less.
A property is not eligible for the scheme if it has access to decent broadband or it is due to be connected by a publicly-funded programme in the next 12 months.
If a property currently receives the requisite speed but pays than £46.10 per month, it will have the right to request a universal service connection.
A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “This is an important change for people struggling to stay connected, helping them to do business and keep in touch with family”.
What Else is UK Government Doing?
This new ruling is part of a government-wide initiative to provide speedy broadband access to the whole of the UK.
As of earlier this month, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is legislating to make sure new build homes are built with the infrastructure to accommodate speeds of over 1,000Mbit/s, up to a cost cap of £2,000 per property.
The DCMS is currently working with Virgin Media and Openreach to incentivise developers to follow these plans. Virgin Media has pledged contribute at least £500 to every new build, while Openreach is committed to a combined contribution with developers of £3,400.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick spoke in support of the initiative, commenting: “This scheme will deliver internet speeds 200 times faster than you would need to watch an HD film on Netflix”.
Coverage for the Countryside
The Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunack confirmed that nationwide speedy access is high on the Government’s agenda, while announcing the budget earlier this month. In it he disclosed that £1 billion is being pledged to deliver strong 4G coverage to the Shared Rural Network (SRN), covering hard to reach rural areas in the UK.
The Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden applauded the scheme, in light of the Government’s commitment to level up the country as a whole to fast internet access: “This is an important milestone to level up the country, improve people’s lives and increase prosperity across the length and breadth of out United Kingdom”.
The Government has also teamed up with national telecoms providers EE, O2, THREE and Vodafone, investing in a network of new and existing phone masts, overseen by a jointly owned company called Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited (DMS).
DMS will provide guaranteed coverage to 280,000 premises and 16,000 KM of roads, providing better indoor coverage to 1.2 million business premises and homes.
Phillip Jansen, the chief executive of BT Group commented: “Building out fast and reliable access to 4G across the country is a national mission and we’re playing a leading role, collaboration with the government and the other mobile network operators in the UK to make this happen”.
In Light of COVID-19
While these schemes are not in response to the increased need for reliable internet access in the wake of COVID-19, the DCMS has acknowledged this extra responsibility, as a spokesperson for DCMS told Computer Business Review today:
“The Government is in regular contact with Ofcom and the major broadband and mobile operators to ensure that networks remain resilient.
“We understand the importance of having reliable access to telecommunications at this time, so people can work from home and access key public services online, including health information.”
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