We have known that a new USO was on the way since the start of 2015, but the target speed is now known and this means there will be a legal right to a 10 Mbps broadband connection in the UK by 2020.
"“Access to the Internet shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a right – absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain. That is why I’m announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain. Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it. That’s right: we’re getting Britain – all of Britain – online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe."The Prime Minister David Cameron
The USO is designed as a safety net to provide the basic access to key services and live TV streaming, but there is a big question over what effect this may have on plans for superfast broadband in the final 5% of the UK. Many may now be worried the Government may be less stringent at pushing superfast to the final 5% and rely on the USO forever consigning the final 5% or a large proportion of it to second grade broadband forever.
Some more detail may emerge after David Cameron has talked about the USO on Monday, but it seems other than the speed, little is set in stone as there will be a consultation starting in early 2016 and this will be crucial, as with the superfast projects using a variety of network builders, now the full weight of the USO may not fall on Openreach and for the sake of competition we hope that the USO does consider how it can be used to encourage deeper commercial roll-outs to avoid the need for subsidy as the 21st century progresses.
Other aspects we believe that should be thrashed out is not just the download speed of any USO service, but a legal minimum speed for the upload and guidelines on areas like latency. 10 Mbps is easily achievable by satellite broadband, and while this might be the only sane option for a property 20 miles from anyone else, we hope that the USO encourages solutions that can be easily upgraded to offer superfast and ultrafast subsequent to that.
As for how many people will be impacted, we have been tracking coverage at 5 Mbps and 15 Mbps, so will rejig our calculations to target a new 10 Mbps. The current UK superfast coverage at 30 Mbps or better is UK wide 87.1%, England 88.3%, Wales 82.1%, Scotland 80.3% and Northern Ireland 75.7%. The 83% figure mentioned by the Culture Secretary John Whittingdale in the DCMS release we believe is an old figure from an Ofcom publication in August 2015, the figures change so quick that we only tweeted about Scotland hitting 80% earlier this week and another 0.3% has been added since with extra fibre cabinets going live.
Update 11:51am We have updated our availability and speed checker to now show two additional coverage metrics, the forthcoming 10 Mbps USO and those getting 15 Mbps or slower. The overall UK picture is that as of 7th November 2015 some 5.8% of UK premises are estimated to need help to achieve a 10 Mbps minimum speed, of course this will drop as the superfast roll-outs continue.