The current Universal Service Obligation for Internet access only requires BT and KC to supply a connection capable of supporting 0.028 Mbps connections and in the first Budget of 2015 a USO was mooted and Ofcom is working towards this with figures of 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps being thrown around. Monday 12th October saw broadband courtesy of Matt Warman MP secure an important debate that had over 40 MPs raising concerns over the roll-out of superfast broadband and what was going to happen to the final 5% who look set to have to wait until 2017 and beyond for any major improvements.
"It is no secret that we are looking at a universal service obligation, and we will not be tied to some piddling European target of 5 megabits. No, when we look at a universal service obligation we will look at a British universal service obligation to deliver the kind of British broadband speeds that British citizens and businesses require. Over the last four years we have delivered that to more than 3 million homes and businesses, and we are fast approaching 4 million. We are hitting our targets time and again. We may not be able to beat the Australians at Twickenham, but when it comes to broadband we beat them hands down!"Ed Vaizey MP - Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy
The debate ran for some three hours and provided a snapshot of the correspondence that MPs have been receiving and while we can argue about the technology used the fairest summary is that people want something faster now and if they have to wait they want to know when something better than what they have now will be delivered. Interestingly some examples of badly served business parks were mentioned, but the time lag due to people contacting their MP and debates like this not happening every day meant that in some cases the superfast roll-out had beaten the debate to the game; thus highlighting the need for people to check what is and is not available to them and to check with several retailers as some may not operate in all areas particularly as many providers do not take a pro-active stance in letting people know about faster options.
The closing minutes of the debate produced the most interesting snippet in that the Government is not looking at just a 5 Mbps but is considering something with higher speeds, exactly what speed remains to be seen and more importantly how will this operate as since the original dial-up USO there is now many more operators in place and the obligations if placed with just Openreach (outside the Hull area) it would potentially green light more over building with rural competitors than is already alleged to take place.
The pace of the roll-out appears to be such that the claim of fast approaching 4 million coverage is on track, as since May 2015 when the 2.5 million premises passed by superfast broadband availability was reached a further 1.2 to 1.3 million premises have been added to the roll-out. The extra 1.2m premises is based on our own tracking and excludes premises we believe would not receive a service at 30 Mbps or faster.