Making broadband a legal right with an enforceable Universal Service Obligation is back on the agenda again. A resident on the Mull of Kintyre has started a new e-petition that runs until 17th February 2013 (currently with 132 signatures), where those signing are showing their support for 'The Legal Right to 2Mbps Fairly Priced, Minimum Broadband Speed in the UK'.
Three weeks ago the Country Land and Business Association made similar calls, the difference with an e-petition is that the Government is meant to consider for debate any petition that exceeds 100,000 signatures.
There is a Universal Service Commitment at 2 Mbps due for 2015, but this carries no legal weight like an obligation, though even with obligations there can be issues like excess costs that utility firms can charge. The more interesting aspect of the petition is the call for the speed a customer receives to be reflected in the price they pay, with a 2 Mbps service costing only one eighth of the monthly fee. Charging for speed received is not simple, as there will be people close to the exchange who do not want to pay the higher fee, and thus providers would need to also introduce speed throttling systems, otherwise many millions could see their price wise.
In fact price is the big problem and why speed based pricing was dropped in 2004 by BT Wholesale, and none of the LLU providers have been keen to implement it. The theory goes that if Openreach and the providers got paid less for slow connections they would be encouraged to increase speeds so that those who want more speed can upgrade. Unfortunately if one looks at the distribution of people on services with speed/price tiers the great majority opt for the lowest priced tier that lets them just about do what they want. Also if a speed tier system is not implemented with strong regulation, we may see the faster products rapidly increase in price, so that the slower products can be sold without impacting the overall revenue.