In a fairly low key release last week the Deputy First Minister John Swinney in the Scottish Government is urging Ofcom and the UK Government to create a Universal Service Obligation for broadband.
"The Scottish Government has set an ambitious digital policy agenda aimed at ensuring that all of Scotland can access world class digital connectivity by 2020 and we are taking forward a range of activity and investment to deliver this.
Broadband is something that everyone in Scotland should have access to – it’s a vital service in today’s world. That is why I am pressing the UK Government to introduce a broadband Universal Service Obligation, which would set out access as an entitlement.
The introduction of a USO for broadband with an appropriate speed requirement, as introduced by Finland, Malta and Spain in recent years, would be a way of ensuring that no-one is excluded from the benefits of this integral technology.Call for USO by Scottish Deputy First Minister
An obligation with legal power behind would be very welcome, but even though a basic telephone line has a USO there are places in the UK each year where the price of new poles and wiring pushes the basic cost well above the USO limit of £3,000 and with remote fixed line broadband likely to suffer similar issues it will be interesting to see how a USO is implemented. A very important consideration is that a USO is likely to prop up the concept that BT is the national telecoms operator for the UK in the face of an increasing amount of alt-net competition.
Also if Scotland is really going to deliver world class digital connectivity to all of Scotland then surely a USO is irrelevant as if everyone has a world class connection the job is done?
While fibre based coverage in Scotland is improving and we estimate it stands at 74.8% currently, the coverage at Superfast speeds (30 Mbps and faster) is 71.1%. What many may not fully appreciate is that the 2017 95% target in Scotland is for people with access to fibre based broadband, i.e. there is no speed qualifier, so someone who gets no speed boost from FTTC would still qualify in the 95%. Getting 5 or 6 Mbps from a FTTC based solution is not in any sense world class.
Well done to Mark over at ISPreview for spotting this announcement buried away on a gov.uk site.