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Right to demand 10Mbps broadband access confirmed in Queen’s Speech – but you might have to pay for it

Government plans to impose a new Broadband Universal Service Obligation – which would see everyone able to apply for fast Internet connection – were announced in the ceremonial State Opening of Parliament. 

The catch is if you’re living or working somewhere on the side of a remote mountain, you might have to stump up a lot of the cash yourself. 

A new Digital Economy Bill will ensure that the new USO means that all British citizens will have a legal right to ask for a connection delivering at least 10Mbps at all times

BT’s superfast broadband footprint swells to cover 25m premisesThanks to the various BDUK schemes running up and down the country, private investment from the likes of BT, Virgin Media and smaller players including Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and B4RN, superfast broadband – defined by the government as anything delivering 25Mbps or higher – is now available to over 90 per cent of properties. 

Eventually, the plan is for 98 per cent of premises to be able to order superfast services by the end of 2018. 

It’s that last 2 per cent that the government wants to be able to get this basic 10Mbps service. 

The specifics of the Bill are still unclear; there’s no mention in the speech of what kind of technology will be used to deliver 10Mbps or all UK premises. According to a recently published consultation document spotted by Think Broadband, the government is considering a range of technological options besides fixed-line connections, including satellite, wireless and mobile broadband. 

All that’s certain at the moment is that at least one provider will be legally obliged to provide a 10Mbps service if a customer asks for it. 

Under the terms of the current USO which applies to BT, anybody can ask for a phone line to be installed anywhere in the UK. BT will absorb up to £3,400 of the associated costs – any higher than that and the customer’s got to cough up. 

Depending on how much customers would have to pay, they may very well decide to throw that cash at an alternative option, assuming the same threshold will apply to the new 10Mbps USO. 

Telecoms regulator Ofcom is running a consultation on the USO which closes on June 23. This will take into consideration installation costs as well as things like latency, jitter, contention and capacity as well as bandwidth which, if anyone’s tried to make a Skype video call or join a multiplayer game on a high latency connection will know, makes all the difference. 

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