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UK ISPs have been invited to state their interest in serving as suppliers for the broadband universal service obligation (USO).

Officially introduced in March 2018, the USO is a piece of legislation designed to ensure that homes and businesses in underserved areas have a legal right to request an affordable connection offering download speeds of at least 10Mbps.

The government has stated its belief that only a regulatory obligation provides the required certainty and legal enforceability to ensure high-speed broadband access for the whole of the UK.

Digital Minister Margot James said: "In the 21st century, accessing the internet is a necessity not a luxury. We are building a Britain that is fit for the future, and we're now putting high-speed broadband on a similar footing as other essential services like water and phone lines."

Industry watchdog Ofcom has been given up to two years to fully implement the USO.

It is predicted that, by 2020, superfast broadband (at least 24Mbps) will be available to approximately 98 per cent of premises across the UK, according to ISPreview.

The focus will therefore be on improving speeds for the remaining two per cent of homes and businesses.

Ofcom's newly published call for expressions of interest aims to identify suppliers that wish to be considered potential universal service providers.

While BT and KCOM are thought to be the only ISPs that have shown any interest in supporting the USO so far, the industry watchdog recently said it had received "expressions of interest from some smaller market players".

The closing date for responses to the call for expressions of interest is August 20th 2018.

Ofcom has said it expects to make its final decisions regarding suppliers by summer 2019, after which consumers will be able to submit requests for connections.

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