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USC is not part of the Digital Economy Bill
Friday 20 November 2009 12:23:20 by Andrew Ferguson

For many people the Digital Economy Bill was thought to be a piece of legislation that would layout who and how the Universal Service Commitment (USC) would work, but to perhaps many peoples surprise the USC is not part of the bill. The funding of the Final Third Project to get Next Generation Broadband to the areas of the UK that the commercial firms will not venture was always going to be part of the Finance Bill due to the need for legislation to introduce a tax raising regime.

So where does the USC stand? Well for one that USC is NOT about giving everyone 2Meg download speeds but rather 'to ensure, through a Universal Service Commitment (USC) that virtually every household in the UK can get access to a line capable of delivering at least 2Mbps'. The word virtually was in the original report but often ignored, it is there so that the difficult areas can be provisioned with something more economically viable. It is important to be aware it is talking of a line that can manage 2Meg, not sustain 2Meg at peak times, or put another way, the many people who complain on our broadband Not-Spot mapping system of slow throughput even though connected at 2Meg or faster will not benefit from the USC. The money to pay for the work required to meet the USC will be from the surplus funds in the Digital Switchover money pot, which is thought to be around £200m. Two hundred million sounds a lot, but if one accepts that there are 166,000 properties unable to get broadband in the UK, which is a figure often mentioned, this works out at just £1200 per property.

Given the spread out nature of many broadband black holes, we think people should be prepared to accept satellite broadband services, or the under trial 'BET' (Broadband Enabling Technology) system from Openreach. Where a cluster of five or six properties exist with no broadband, then more advanced possibly even next generation systems may be possible, particularly if the homeowners/businesses are willing to pay something towards the install fee.

While 2Mbps can be considered fit for online banking and access to e-gov services, the increasing amount of video available for purchase online means people with 2Meg lines will feel like second class broadband citizens. In four years time we may find that operating system updates occupy an hour or two a day on a 2Mbps line (Microsoft Windows service packs can already weigh in at 200 to 400MB in size).

The USC was an opportunity to take the already world leading broadband coverage in the UK, and put the UK in a position that would stop people worrying about the state of broadband access when relocating a home or business. As things stand now, it is impossible for us to say who people will go to to ask questions about the USC, or exactly what the options will be for people. In theory, this information should emerge very soon if the USC is meant to be completed by 2012, but the reality is that we will probably see the mechanisms in place in 2011 ready for 2012 and those with no broadband benefiting possibly in time for the 2012 Olympics.

Comments

Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Again, so what 2MBit is "low". Other EU countries are aiming for 1-2MBit in the 2010-2012 timescale, with the aim of raising the minimum over the next few decades.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
The UK is relying on the Final Third to handle expansion, and as far I recall no EU country has laid out plans for 2020 or beyond.

Perhaps it was false hope, but each step of the USC always seems to be dissapointment, i.e. a chance to do something truly worthwhile is missed.

The USC should in my view have been in the bill and had some firm commitments to it.
Posted by cjbell68 over 7 years ago
2mbits is low, and promotes at least a two-tiered system. I'm sure people who are struggling to get anything will be pleased, but it is not forward looking or visionary. Not interested in what the other countries are doing.

I'm hoping noone will pop up and remind me what a privileged household we are, to live in a rural area and subsidized by urban areas as per the recent debate on the forums about the comments in the House of Lords.
Posted by cjbell68 over 7 years ago
PS I know it's expensive to do!
Posted by herdwick over 7 years ago
"to live in a rural area and subsidized by urban areas" - you also get penalised by urban specific measures like having to run on fuels designed purely for urban issues or schemes to increase the use of non-existent public transport.
Posted by cjbell68 over 7 years ago
Herdwick, that's not true - I saw a couple of buses the other day!
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
quote"So where does the USC stand? Well for one that USC is NOT about giving everyone 2Meg download speeds but rather 'to ensure, through a Universal Service Commitment (USC) that virtually every household in the UK can get access to a line capable of delivering at least 2Mbps"
Like i said yonks ago... GUARANTEED 2MEG wont happen...http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/3834-2meg-broadband-to-become-universal.html Have also said it several times in the forum and got abuse in return along with "it will"... Ah the joy of being right again :D
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
The report has never guaranteed 2Mb to everyone, its always had terms like "UPTO" 2Mb of "Give the majority" 2Mb, for some reason people seem to have thought that means they will get 2Mb... I said time after time no they wont, and 2Mb for all is impossible and sometimes even got abuse for saying it, finally its cleared up though and smugly i can say told you so!
Posted by ElBobbo over 7 years ago
It is in no way impossible. Improbable because it's not cost-effective, but not impossible.
Posted by herdwick over 7 years ago
" i can say told you so!" - just because the USC isn't in the bill doesn't mean it has been abandoned. Until such time as they publish what they are doing your guess is as good or bad as anybodies. Everyone can have 2M satellite, for example.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
It cant be done, some are just too far from exchanges, even if you think it can be done it is not going to happen, they never said everyone would get atleast 2Mb, people just got carried away dreaming.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
No technical reason it cannot be done, who said it will use a telephone exchange. 2-way satellite needs nothing other than power to run the kit.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
^^^ LOL to even think funding is going to be made for 2 way satelite to those in remote areas is funny for so many reasons. Its not going to happen Andrew and you know as well as i do it was never a cast iron Guarantee, terms like "majority" "virtualy everyone" and "up to" were always used way before this story. I guess some just live in lala land or just didnt bother reading EXACTLY what has been stated. 2Mb for ALL its not happening and was never promised.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
CB - The popular satellite broadband provider operating in the United Kingdom, Avanti Communications has been chosen by the government of the country to provide satellite broadband services in a couple of areas.

http://www.broadbandsuppliers.co.uk/news/wireless-broadband/avanti-secures-broadband-contracts1110.html
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
Still does not mean atleast 2Mb FOR ALL
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
CB - Why not? (If you can se the satellite) Although we don't know the costs yet.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
' in a couple of areas'. So maybe for all eventually.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
LOL that will be like the promise of broadband for all then which still nearly 20 years on has not happened.
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