Commenting on today’s Universal Service Obligation proposals from the Government, Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at uSwitch.com says: “Today’s announcement will no doubt be seen as good news by consumers in rural areas that have been left without decent broadband.
“Under the proposals, consumers who can’t currently access decent broadband will be able to request a service that must deliver download speeds of at least 10Mbps.
“However, we’ll need to wait for Ofcom and Government to publish the full detail on how this will work in practice and how it will be funded. The financial burden will likely be covered by a levy from all broadband providers so we should expect an impact on consumer bills. We could be looking at broadband bills potentially increasing somewhere in the region of an extra £1 per month.
“Our own research found that one in five people (20.6%) struggle with speeds less than 10Mbps, while nearly one in 10 (8.6%) are especially unlucky, crawling along at less than 5Mbps. But consumers must not confuse today’s announcement with a legal minimum for standard broadband connections across the country. While superfast services are available to more than 95% of premises, there are still large numbers of consumers failing to achieve these speeds on their standard connections. These consumers will need to upgrade to superfast broadband services if they want more than 10Mbps.
“Let’s make it clear – the proposals announced today will only benefit areas that can’t otherwise achieve these speeds, for example through fibre-based services. The broadband USO will only be a ‘right to request’ – it won’t be automatic and there will likely be a threshold that could exclude the most remote homes.
“It will likely be 2020 before this formally comes in, so it is critical that commercial investment in upgrading broadband continues ahead of any changes. Industry must not be complacent and we must ensure all consumers are brought along on the journey, and are able to benefit from faster more reliable broadband services.”