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17th of January 2018

Economy



UK households to get the LEGAL RIGHT to fast broadband by 2020

The government rejected BT proposal for a 'voluntary agreement' over speedsCulture Secretary Karen Bradley said only a legal change would sufficeProviders will be under legal obligation to provide speeds of 10Mbps or moreUK currently has one of the slowest broadband networks across Europe 

By Jane Denton For Thisismoney

Published: 06:59 EST, 20 December 2017 | Updated: 08:22 EST, 20 December 2017

Homes and businesses will have the legal right to demand high-speed broadband by 2020, the government has said.

From 2020, broadband providers will be subject to a legal obligation to provide broadband users with speeds of at least 10Mbps.

In confirming the new legal rule, the government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, rejected BT's proposal to deliver quicker broadband through a voluntary agreement.

Speeding up: Homes and businesses will have the legal right to demand high-speed broadband by 2020 Speeding up: Homes and businesses will have the legal right to demand high-speed broadband by 2020

Speeding up: Homes and businesses will have the legal right to demand high-speed broadband by 2020

The government body said BT's proposal was not 'strong enough' to ensure millions of households and businesses get adequate broadband speeds.

Under the new rules, broadband speeds will be governed by a regulatory Universal Service Obligation, with the government claiming 'everyone' will have access to high speed broadband by 2020. 

For years, the UK's broadband network has languished behind other countries in terms of speed, price and reliability.

The country's broadband speeds are slower than those seen across most of Europe, Thailand and even New Zealand. 

Rural areas across the UK are often plagued by poor broadband speeds, while many areas receive only intermittent coverage while still left paying hefty premiums. 

Around 230,000 businesses in rural areas and urban blackspots are currently unable to get a decent broadband service. 

Earlier this month, regulator Ofcom said that 4 per cent of UK households, equating to around 1.1 million people, could not access broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps, which is the minimum speed they think is required.

In July, a group of 57 MPs published a report calling on regulator Ofcom to make broadband providers such as BT and Sky pay compensation to customers if they don't get adequate broadband speeds.  

Rejected: The government rejected BT's proposal for a 'voluntary agreement' for speeds Rejected: The government rejected BT's proposal for a 'voluntary agreement' for speeds

Rejected: The government rejected BT's proposal for a 'voluntary agreement' for speeds

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said today: '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. 

'This is all part of our work on ensuring that Britain’s telecoms infrastructure is fit for the future and will continue to deliver the connectivity that consumers need in the digital age.' 

In response to the government's decision, a BT spokesman said: 'We respect the Government's decision. 

So slow: The UK's broadband speeds are slower than those seen across most of Europe So slow: The UK's broadband speeds are slower than those seen across most of Europe

So slow: The UK's broadband speeds are slower than those seen across most of Europe

'BT and Openreach want to get on with the job of making decent broadband available to everyone in the UK so we'll continue to explore the commercial options for bringing faster speeds to those parts of the country which are hardest to reach.

'Alongside this, we'll work closely with Government, Ofcom and industry to help deliver the regulatory USO.

'We look forward to receiving more details from the Government outlining its approach to defining the regulatory USO, including the proposed funding mechanism.'

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: 'The Government must now move quickly to ensure consumers get these promised speeds by 2020 and closely monitor the programme to ensure it can keep pace with changing technology.'

The government now has two years to push through the new legislation and determine how it will be policed from 2020 and beyond.

Its success will depend not only on the steps taken by broadband providers to ensure the legislation becomes a key part of their fabric every employee knows about, but how sternly the relevant authorities impose it.

Blunders: Around 230,000 businesses in rural areas and urban blackspots are currently unable to get a decent broadband service Blunders: Around 230,000 businesses in rural areas and urban blackspots are currently unable to get a decent broadband service

Blunders: Around 230,000 businesses in rural areas and urban blackspots are currently unable to get a decent broadband service

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