The Culture, Media and Sport Committee takes evidence from Minister of State, Ed Vaizey MP may have surprised some when he suggested that the Universal Service Obligation may not carry an absolute promise that everyone no matter how remote or difficult to reach will benefit from a 10 Mbps once it is in place.
The revelation arose during the latest session where the Minister of State was questioned on UK superfast broadband connectivity on Wednesday 13th April 2016 (the public session can be watched in full via the Parliament TV link.
So what did the Minister of State mean? If you watch the session it becomes clearer that he was referring to the fact that the Universal Service Obligation may carry a cost cap, and this would therefore avoid the scenario of a lone property in a remote location with no view of the southern sky costing the public or firm endowed with the USO responsibility a large sum of money. For example if getting 10 Mbps to a property costs £15,000 is that something that should be done commercially or from the public purse? This is not that odd thing since the existing telephone USO carries a £3,400 cap on what BT or KCom will spend to deliver a working telephone service before asking for extra contributions from the person ordering the service.
There are signs of a miracle conversion with the Minister of State starting to embrace Gigabit in the future vision for the UK but that is the logical progression and beyond ambition a lot will depend on how the commercial operators approach this in the next few years. Most importantly it is highly likely that with the deployment of DOCSIS 3.1 eventually by Virgin Media Gigabit type speeds will be available to half of UK premises. Also some of the recent criticism Ed Vaizey MP has levelled at BT and Openreach was explained by the Minister pointing out that he will give praise when its due and criticism when its needed.
In case some people think that the definition of superfast broadband has changed, which some are reporting it has not and the over 24 Mbps (Westminster) and 30 Mbps and faster (EU) definitions are still very much in place.