Editorial

Hancock promises… something… to do with superfast broadband

Our Digital Minister tells country that he won’t pay BT to give it to us, but we have the right to ASK for universal fast connectivity. So that’s OK, then.

Posted 20 December 2017 by

The government will not pay BT to roll out superfast broadband across the UK.

“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,” confirmed Culture Secretary Karen Bradley today.

It says instead there will thus be “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).

Instead – and in a way that some citizens of the UK may find a little bit puzzling – it will make a law that grants us all the right to ask for it.

Clear about that?

Expect a flurry of angry Tweets and commentary this morning in the light of both the formal announcement of the end of year decision and ‘Digital Minister’ Matt Hancock’s somewhat puzzling explanation of it all on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’.

“It’s about having the right to demand [access],” he told the nation, using the analogy of a hard landline, which everyone can ask for but not everyone wants… which at least some will see as a peculiar interpretation of previous government promises on superfast delivery – a particular issue for both households and businesses in many rural parts of the country.

Instead, Hancock and the rest of his team at DCMS say universal high speed broadband will be delivered by a Universal Service Obligation (USO) standard, giving everyone in the UK access to speeds of at least 10 megabits per second by 2020.

DCMS says this is the speed Ofcom is needed to meet the requirements of an average family.

The design for a legal right to high speed broadband will be set out in secondary legislation early next year, alongside a more detailed response to the consultation process it launched earlier this year.

“In the summer, we received a proposal from BT to deliver universal broadband through a voluntary agreement. We welcomed BT’s proposal and have considered this in detail alongside a regulatory approach [but] did not feel the proposal was strong enough for us to take the regulatory USO off the table, and have therefore decided not to pursue BT’s proposal in favour of providing a legal right to broadband,” says the statement.

“However, we welcome BT’s continued investment to deliver broadband to all parts of the UK.”