An amendment made by the House of Lords to the UK’s proposed Digital Economy Bill – which called for a broadband universal service order (USO) of 30Mbps – has been rejected by the government, thinkbroadband reports. Due to the recently-called general election, which will take place on 8 June 2017, several pieces of legislation are now being rushed through parliament, and with the Digital Economy Bill being one of them it was brought back for discussion yesterday (26 April). In addressing the amendments to the bill that had been made by the upper house in February 2017, digital minister Matt Hancock confirmed that the proposal to increase the USO to 30Mbps was being watered down, with the original plan for a 10Mbps baseline restored. Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Hancock did note, however, that government was inserting a new amendment which calls on local telecoms regulator Ofcom to review the minimum download speed in the broadband USO once superfast services, which it describes as connections of at least 30Mbps downstream, ‘are subscribed to for use in at least 75% of premises in the United Kingdom’.
Alongside doing away with the call from the Lords for a 30Mbps USO, the government meanwhile also confirmed its removal of another, arguably more ambitious, amendment which proposed that the USO must specify that the target for broadband connections and services to be provided before 2020 must have speeds of 2Gbps or more, with fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) as a minimum standard. In his remarks to parliament, Mr Hancock said: ‘According to Ofcom’s latest data, in 2016, take-up of ultrafast broadband with a download speed of 300Mbps and higher was less than 0.1%, so we are nowhere near being able to demonstrate that the majority of the population have access to full fibre with a download speed of 2Gbps. We therefore cannot accept Lords amendment 1, and we are not in a position of a substantial majority having taken up superfast broadband.’