UK authorities opt for broadband USO over voluntary agreement with BT

21 Dec 2017

The British government has confirmed that universal high speed broadband will be delivered by a regulatory Universal Service Obligation (USO), having opted to not to pursue a proposal from BT to deliver such connectivity via a voluntary agreement. In a press release the Department for Digital, Communication, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that the USO will ensure everyone in the UK has access to a service offering downlink speeds of at least 10Mbps by 2020. It added that, having launched a consultation on the design of the regulator USO earlier this year, the government now aims to set out the design for a legal right to high speed broadband in secondary legislation early next year, alongside a detailed response to the consultation.

With regards to the decision to opt for the USO in favour of BT’s proposal, meanwhile, the DCMS noted that, having considered the latter it ‘did not feel the proposal was strong enough … to take the regulatory USO off the table’, arguing that ‘only a regulatory USO offers sufficient certainty and the legal enforceability that is required to ensure high speed broadband access for the whole of the UK by 2020’. Specifically, it has claimed the regulatory approach will offer a number of advantages for consumers, including: allowing for minimum connection speeds to be increased over time as customer requirements evolve; providing for greater enforcement to help ensure premises can get connected, especially in hard-to-reach areas; and introducing a legal requirement for high speed broadband to be provided to anyone requesting it, subject to a cost threshold (in the same way the universal service right to a landline telephone works).

Commenting on the matter, UK culture secretary Karen Bradley said: ‘We know how important broadband is to homes and businesses and we want everyone to benefit from a fast and reliable connection. We are grateful to BT for their proposal but have decided that only a regulatory approach will make high speed broadband a reality for everyone in the UK, regardless of where they live or work.’