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Local council body wants Government to reassert commitment to USO
Wednesday 27 July 2016 10:25:46 by Andrew Ferguson

The Local Government Association has highlighted a desire from the councils it represents in England and Wales for the Government to publically make it clear that with the new broom that has swept through Whitehall that it is totally committed to the 10 Mbps Universal Service Obligation.

"It is undeniable that access to fast and reliable digital connectivity is a necessity for households and businesses in the UK.

Good digital connectivity is a vital element of everyday life for residents and can help them cut household bills, shop online for cheaper goods, stay in touch with distant relatives, file tax returns and access their bank accounts. As central and local government services increasingly become ‘digital by default', more people will need to have faster and more reliable speeds.

It is paramount that the Government maintains momentum and presses ahead with plans to enshrine the USO in law. We hope that the recent changes in Government do not delay work on the USO and call on ministers to reaffirm their commitment to it.

Equally, while this minimum standard is a good start it must keep pace with national average speeds and the expectations of households especially at peak times. Without this there is the real possibility of some areas – particularly in rural and hard-to-reach areas - falling into a digital twilight zone.

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Chairman of the LGA's People and Places Board

As things stand at this moment in time we believe there are 1.22 million premises where the only fixed line broadband option is below 10 Mbps (this latest figure includes the impact from FTTH operators such as Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, IFNL, B4RN and others, without them the figure would be 20,000 premises higher) and this will decrease more as the 95% superfast broadband target gets closer but as anyone who has looked at the maps we publish can see this is not just a rural broadband problem.

We always try to ensure when talking to anyone involved with the USO that while download speed is what people talk about most, issues like ensuring upload speeds are decent is increasingly important particularly for business use. Also while satellite broadband does have a place and can hit and exceed the download target upload speeds tend to suffer and the latency is very apparent, it certainly is not the solution that should be considered for what might be 0.75m to 1m premises.

As a safety net 10 Mbps will allow business and home users to do the key tasks, but as things evolve this is likely to prove inadequate (even if its just keeping devices up to date with firmware and software updates) and this is why there is talk of an escalator where the USO will be reviewed every few years. The problem for Government is balancing the cost of implementing a solution that will suffice for 20 to 30 years when budgets are so limited versus smaller incremental changes that stress the public purse less in the short term.

One aspect that is often overlooked is the performance of broadband connections at peak times, and with the never ending rise of online TV viewing as the biggest drive of bandwidth consumption one gets the sense of a growing anger from people who buy ever faster packages in the hope it will fix buffering or know the speed they are connecting at is well in excess of the speed needed for streaming but the buffering symbol is still a daily friend. Buffering of a HD video stream while unlikely on a 1 Gbps service is still technically possible if a provider over contends their links to where video is being served from. Broadband history is littered with providers who have done really good deals and service quality plummets, ensuring that any USO provision does not fall into this trap will prove a challenge, but is not impossible.


Posted by chilting 9 months ago
I would like to see a much greater commitment by Government to Fixed Wireless for the final 5%.
Fixed Wireless can be quickly deployed over a wide area and is much cheaper.
It can be used as a short term fix if desired or is perfectly acceptable as a long term solution.
It is very encouraging that BDUK grants are now being extended to cover some Fixed Wireless projects, but I feel much more needs to be done by the new digital minister to encourage commercial operators to expand or create networks.
Posted by Blackmamba 9 months ago
Hi Chil.
As more customer and councilers , MP use the post code information on TBB Website Maps this will stimulate the Market between the ISPs services as long as the information is up to date and correct.
Posted by 961a 9 months ago
There are many who will never stimulate the market because they are getting well under 2Mbps and it can never be commercially economic to connect them. Government needs to start with these folk and provide service by satellite or fixed wireless at a reasonable rent where cabling is impossible
Posted by Llety 9 months ago
@Chilting Maybe part of the reason that Fixed Wireless won't work well for much of the last 5% because a fair number of them live in valleys and I would guess fixed Wireless needs line of sight.

@blackmamba. I take it you have never used Satellite? Yes/no? It is not a viable solution, please stop suggesting it is. A solution that does not work when it rains should not get any validity in a country where it rains a lot.

9 sleeps to FTTP (maybe)
Posted by RuralWire 9 months ago
@Chilting - North Yorkshire County Council and NYnet have recently concluded a public consultation exercise for a Phase 3 in North Yorkshire aiming at 100% NGA broadband coverage (fixed-line and/or fixed-wireless). About 91% coverage by the end of Phase 2 (June 2017). The remaining 9% amounting to about 26,630 premises to be covered by a third phase with a mixture of local and national funding. My point being, if this is a reasonably viable proposition in what is a large and highly rural county, then this ambitious and progressive target may materialize elsewhere.
Posted by Blackmamba 9 months ago
Hi Llety.
Sat system should be only used as a temp measure I have had two lines where it was used. The first was on Adsl at speed 1.5 meg he then had Sat provided until the exchange went to CN 21 we then went to ADSL+2 this gave him approx 4. After that FTTC at 14 meg. Number two was when an ISP said the line was not not suitable for FTTC which was not correct they did not understand the line distance. Good luck with your line sleep well.
Posted by ukwoody 9 months ago
I am on a WiMax connection,line of sight. IF (a BIG IF) it is managed correctly it works extremely well and should, in my opinion come first over satellite when it comes to funding. Valleys arent in some ways the biggest problem. The main problem is finding suitable locations for masts and getting infrastructure to them easily and at reasonable cost to make it worth while for the wisp. 1 client in a valley would not be worth it unless subsidised. When my Wisp actually gets their act together I can get 22meg with 16ms Latency. One local Wisp is offering 40meg as standard now.
Posted by chilting 9 months ago
Here in West Sussex we will soon have two fixed wireless operators benefiting from BDUK funding. This will go a long way to giving the final 5% in our area decent broadband.
One is using a local Police mast for their equipment - this could be done on a national level.
Posted by Blackmamba 9 months ago
Hi Chil.
When the Two wireless operations are on line in West Sussex I hope it will cover many post codes thus giving service to higher speeds on TBB maps , you have helped many customers and increased competition between ISP,s.
Posted by darren_mccoy 9 months ago
It would be nice if the slowest connection got FIBRE to the home / premises ahead of everyone else. Also why can't BT come to simple arrangements to dig fibre across farmers fields like F4RN?
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