All homes in rural areas to have decent broadband by end of 2020

The USO will provide a “digital safety net” for those in the most remote and hardest to reach places
The USO will provide a “digital safety net” for those in the most remote and hardest to reach places

A law enacting a legal obligation to deliver universal broadband of at least 10 megabits per second (Mbps) by the end of 2020 has been laid in Parliament today.

The Universal Service Order (USO), setting out the technical specification for the USO and relevant guidance, is being laid in Parliament today (28 March).

Ofcom now has up to 2 years to implement the scheme, meaning that by 2020, everyone in the UK will have a legal right to an affordable connection of at least 10 Mbps, no matter where they live or work, up to a reasonable cost threshold.

Ofcom will be responsible for finalising key issues on how a consumer can exercise their new rights, what the maximum connection cost thresholds will be and the rules on demand aggregation.

95% of the UK already has access to superfast broadband, and the USO will provide a “digital safety net” for those in the most remote and hardest to reach places.

These areas include where many farmers live and work. In summer 2017, only 9% of farmers surveyed could confirm they receive broadband speeds of 24Mbps or more and only 15% had a reliable outdoor phone signal across the farm.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Lord Duncan welcomed the announcement as a win for rural areas. He said: “It is vital that every home and business in the UK – including remote communities - has access to affordable, reliable, high speed broadband.”

'Enshrined in law'

Although the USO minimum speed will initially be set at at least 10Mbps, this will be kept under review.

The government expects it to be increased over time. Ofcom advise that 10Mbps is the speed required for a typical household’s use of internet access to services such as web browsing, email and video services.

CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said the commitment “means that the principle is now enshrined in law that no home or business should be left behind in the modern economy.”

He added: “However, our campaign continues because although this commitment is right for now, technology advances at such a speed that is is essential for this law to evolve with the times. Whilst a minimum 10 Mbps download speed is adequate for now, that will change in the relatively near future.

“Fixed broadband connections are only one part of the connectivity challenge. We have a long way to go to establish universal access to mobile data coverage that is equally important for people living and working in our countryside.”