Plans to guarantee dismal broadband speeds for all are foundering, Stewart Mitchell finds, as pressure builds on the government to rethink its Universal Service Obligation
The Universal Service Obligation (USO) thatguarantees all households amodest level ofbroadbandwill leavemany homeswithout the “guaranteed” speed and remains uncosted, less than 18 months before it is due to come into effect, a PC Pro investigation has found.
The USO promises 10Mbits/sec download and 1Mbit/sec upload speeds, with telecoms regulator Ofcom inviting providers to tender for the project.
However, critics point out that even this modest target is already outdated and likely to fail.
“The USO they’re suggesting is a fudge – you have a second-rate solution for themajority to fill a criteria that’s too low,” said Chris Conder, a founder of the community fibre provider B4RN. “10Mbits/sec in a year or twowill be a farce – the USO should be 100Mbits/sec.”
The comments echo concerns from the House of Lords, which had been pushing for a USO that set theminimum download speed at 30Mbits/sec. “By the government’s own admission, the USO is simply a safety net and frankly, not a very good one at that,” explained Lord Foster of Bath, highlighting that most of the research preferred a faster base rate.
“I have looked at many Ofcom documents and I cannot find a single one in which they express real enthusiasm for a USO of just 10Mbits/sec. The lack of ambition shown in the USO is common tomuch of the government’s whole approach to broadband rollout.”
In the light of the government’s recent announcement of amajor investment for a full fibre Britain, a botched USO might seem insignificant, but the timeline for that rollout runs to 2033. For bandwidth-challenged businesses and homes, that couldmean a longwait.
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