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Poll Results: Universal Service Commitment what the public want
Thursday 09 May 2013 10:31:26 by Andrew Ferguson

One of the key points of the original Universal Service Commitment was that it would be suitable for streaming web based video from a service such as iPlayer, and while a 2 Mbps service in 2015 should still be capable of that, there will be many more things people and business are using their broadband connection.

We have now ran our 2013 edition of a poll on what people think the basic Universal Service Commitment speed should be, and over the last four years the result has been remarkably consistent, with around 1 in 3 saying that the USC speed should be 20 Mbps, ten times faster than the 2 Mbps originally talked about in 2008.

Poll Results: Public choice for USC broadband speed
(click image for larger version)

The political answer to the evidence that the public overwhelming believe that 2 Mbps is past its use-by date for broadband is that the 2 Mbps represents a minimum and not a target speed, and to some extent we see this with some of the BDUK projects, where some projects are looking to deliver speeds of 5 to 6 Mbps to the final hardest to reach few percent of each county.

The 2013 instance of the poll attracted over 1,800 responses and with the consistency compared to the 2012 results suggests that the people responding are making reasonable choices beyond just always wanting more. The problem for those looking to invest in broadband improvements is that while 75% appear happy to consider changing provider to get the speeds they want, around half of those taking part in the poll want to speed less £2.50 extra to see a doubling of their broadband speeds. Regulating to encourage infrastructure investment and promote retail competition is not an easy task in this environment, where only small incremental changes in price appear tolerable to many people.


Posted by ValueforMoney over 4 years ago
So the notion of 2Mbps minimum is to allow 1 homeworker to do what they to do. So putting 24 fibres to c25k cabinets where 23 of the fibres can be extended creates a good capability to build upon.
The assets used for the 4G - 2Mbps MOBILE broadband coverage obligation could be utilised to support a fixed wireless service of 10Mbps + or 30Mbps if we discuss capability rather than actual - another good building block.
USC could be defined in pure data transport terms, allowing some of the USO costs to be removed.
Posted by kamelion over 4 years ago
Have you got adsl max writing your articles for you now?
Posted by Yorkie71 over 4 years ago
2Mbs just won't provide what will be coming down the wire over the next few years so it's a rather pointless target in my view and clearly well below the expectations of the people who responded to the survey.

Just take YouView for example, which has received extensive publicity. It clearly states on the site that a minimum of 3Mbs is recommended. So that's one of the most recent services unavailable under the USC.

Clearly, many will get more than this but a a tick box for the government, if someone has 2Mbs, job done.
Posted by jrawle over 4 years ago
Should there also be a USC to provide mains gas to every village? Or how about a motorway junction on everyone's doorstep?

Standard of broadband will just have to be one of those factors that people consider when deciding where to live. After all, the figure was 2Mb/s, now people want 20, and in a few years' time it'll be 200. Not everyone can have the very latest in broadband speed, it just isn't viable. And believe it or not, there are people who don't want it and would be perfectly happy in a picturesque village with 256kb/s, dial-up or no computer.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@jrawle What is interesting is that demand for the USC to be 20 Mbps has been there since 2009.

If it was people just wanting the fastest speed, we would have expected the chart to slip to the right as the years go by.
Posted by jrawle over 4 years ago
@andrew I fist had broadband in 2003, and back then 2 Mb/s sounded amazing. Today it's hard to see why anyone will ever need more than 20 Mb/s, but in another 10 years it's sure to seem outdated.
Posted by chilting over 4 years ago
The thing with the USC is that it is just a promise and promises are made to be broken. I live in a small Sussex village that lost its exchange about 20 years ago. Our exchange is housed in the neighboring village of Storrington. Storrington now has fibre but BT and WSCC have so far failed us in West Chiltington. We have no chance of a BT upgrade [market 1 exchange] and West Sussex seem intent to be last to implement their BDUK project. So the chances of us reaching 2Mbps by 2015 are slim.
Posted by SeanB84 over 4 years ago
The calls for 20 Meg are laudable. It requires, however, them to be resourced. Who is to pay for this? BDUK projects are unlikely to be able to tack onto the end of the procurement process, a requirement that the USC be ramped up ten fold.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 4 years ago
What the poll really shows that the main consideration is price above everything else.

£2.50 or less for a doubling of speed doesn't really inspire any future investment.
Posted by farnz over 4 years ago

I've been pushing for 20 MBit/s since 2001. My reasoning is simple:

1) 10 MBit/s is plenty for one HD video stream.

2) 10 MBit/s is plenty for connectivity to a fileserver (e.g. Google Drive or Microsoft SkyDrive), as long as you have local caching to hide delays.

Add the two uses together (one HD stream for the kids to watch, one using a "cloud" office suite), and I get to needing 20M.
Posted by andygegg over 4 years ago
Would I be willing to pay extra to double my download speed to 2Mb/s - no. The question in the original poll sort of assumes everyone responding can get a good speed now but I suspect a lot of answers are from people like me who cannot.
Posted by otester over 4 years ago
Needing/squabbling over a USC just shows how poor the level of competition is in this country.
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
I agree - the poll was skewed towards those who've already got exciting speeds. Over the last few days I've had 150kbps. Yes, you read that right! Would I pay something to double that to 300kbps?? I think the questiuon should have been would you pay more to increase your speed by 10 or 100 times. OK, that skews it more towards people with currently poor speeds, but what exactly was the poll trying to find out - that people won't pay for more speed??
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
I was angling for a USC of 2Mbps on these forums about 7 years ago but was shot down in flames by people saying there was no need for it and that it's my fault for "choosing" to live where I do...
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
While people's target of 20Mbps hasn't changed recently, some of the ideas behind a USC have changed - particularly compared to a decade ago.

Back then, thoughts of a USC would have been to place the requirement on BT as incumbent monopolist of those hard-to-reach areas.

With the advent of BDUK, the onus of the USC is now on the local council, in choosing a supplier. Some, like North Yorks and Lincolnshire, have their eye on additional projects.
Posted by warweezil over 4 years ago
The problem is that as well as the monthly ISP cost there is the BT "voice tax" which adds around a tenner at least to the cost of broadband in a huge part of the UK not covered by cable. Given the move on line by so much of Government, it really is time for a naked DSL service to be available from ISPs cutting all the voice providers out of the cost base. I don't need voice services, nor to pay to provide/maintain the infrastructure of a service that I neither want nor use.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 4 years ago
The debate shouldn't be about speed, it should be about decent infrastructure that is capable of being ramped up at very low cost. This means we need alternative networks to provide some competition to the incumbent determined to sweat copper assets.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 4 years ago

Ok so if an ISP went the "naked" line route you would still have to pay a form of line rental, you are still using the line and the infrastructure. Data or voice it is all about using power on the line,

I expect that naked BB isn't offered due to the pretty much similar price that would need to be paid with or without voice.
Posted by warweezil over 4 years ago
Some of that makes sense, but in the cost is an allowance for the provision and maintenance of the voice side (probably along with a small amount to fund future upgrade/replacement) of kit I dont need. My ISP has its kit in the exchange - BT fleeced us for years with market 1 pricing, and now is able to carry on with its abusive practices by requiring voice which is probably preventing a collapse in its voice line business.
Posted by warweezil over 4 years ago
I wonder what the real cost of a copper pair would be without the BT voice stuff? I went LLU as BT had claimed for years my exchange wasn't viable for ADSL2, lo and behold when it was unbundled BT suddenly decided it was viable. BT cant even provide a decent pair for my line, which has been dropping at random ever since day 1 on ADSL, and I have grown weary of openjoke claiming that the line is fit. Removing voice ios a way of cutting costs to the customer - and as we are all in this together costs are the problem - every penny counts.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 4 years ago
There is still the small matter of the line, the poles, the ducts, the power used, the staff wages... The voice card at the exchange is only a very small part of the equation.

You don't see people on voice only demanding less line rental as the don't have broadband.
Posted by warweezil over 4 years ago
They may however be annoyed at having to rent a broadband service they DONT want to get the voice service - which is the point I am making. the truth is that without broadband MANY lines would not exist as they would no longer be required by people who have mobile phones with bundled minutes.

Posted by undecidedadrian over 4 years ago
It just sounds like the people who want "naked" broadband don't want to pay for any form of line rental what so ever even though that they are using the infrastructure.

The voice service is immaterial, if you don't make calls you won't be charged. The voice line card is a very small cog in the infrastruture.
Posted by chrysalis over 4 years ago
also consider this USC will be stuck for many years, maybe even decades tnen you ralise 2mbit is wholly inadequate.
Posted by chrysalis over 4 years ago
undecidedadrian you sticking to ancient practices, PAYG mobiles dont charge rental. contracts are for inclusive calls and/or devices. I can understand line rental to a degree if it gives a good amount of inclusive calls, and I suspect now this is why they all try to include weekend calls as they realise its a dieing practice.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 4 years ago
Mobiles be it PAYG or contract will have an infrastructure charge built into the charging model. It won't be shown in the break down but the company will have it hidden away.

My Infinity 2 with line rental and unlimited calls and data is £30 per month.

My Three One plan with unlimited data and 2000 minutes is £31 per month.

The reason why the line rental is still predominant for fixed lines is to allow customers a choice for who charges them line rental. Something that mobiles don't have due to network lock ins.
Posted by chrysalis over 4 years ago
to be honest I think most people dont care ho they pay line rental to, the choice is now mainly serving those isp's who want people to take line rental as well, like sky. Many people probably only take sky line rental because its required for broadband, the main reason its there for landlines I disagree with you is its a revenue thats always been there and the telcos are not going to just give it up.
Posted by chrysalis over 4 years ago
now the question is how do you have unlimited infinity 2 including line rental for £30. My infinity 2 is £26 a month, £11 line rental on top (because paid year up front) and that only includes weekend landline calls. Your prices arent valid as they not listed retail price, and how much do BT charge for a line thats only incoming calls, a mobile is free for that type of use.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 4 years ago
When I enquired about how easy was it to move from Infinity to plusnet via the email contact I was contact by BT retentions and was given that price for the next 18 months.

Although you may claim it isn't valid my phone contract was something similar as the manager of the local three store took £12 a month of the contract to get me to sign there and then and that shows up as a £12 recurring discount.

But no matter how people argue if line rental was "abolished" BB prices would soar to take in account of infrastructure maintence fees.

You have to pay for it one way or another.
Posted by michaels_perry over 4 years ago
As a rural 'broadband' user I would like to see a USC of at least 10Mbps everywhere. 2 Mbps as is the best we get now is just too slow for downloading any video content, it stutters so badly it's unwatchable. At least 5 Mbps is needed but that is not 'future proof' enough. ADSL in any form is now just not capable of delivering any content other than simple textual information, even pictures take an age to appear!
Posted by dparr59 over 4 years ago
I live in a town with fibre except in the street i live so a USC of 2meg is out of date , 20 meg should be the new minimum at least.
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