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article imageUK to make fast broadband a 'fundamental right' by 2020

By James Walker     Nov 7, 2015 in Technology
UK PM David Cameron has pledged to introduce a "universal service obligation" for broadband Internet that will see it obtain a similar status to water and electricity and force providers to offer fast connections to every home and business by 2020.
The BBC reports Mr Cameron is now describing fast broadband as an "absolutely fundamental right" and something that "shouldn't be a luxury" anymore. Currently, 83 percent of UK homes and businesses have access to a superfast broadband connection of 24Mbps, a number set to rise to 95 percent in the next two years.
Cameron is now more concerned with the people who live in remote areas and currently have broadband speeds of less than 10Mbps. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said to BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We want to upgrade the universal service obligation to provide fast broadband speeds of 10Mbps for the very hardest to reach homes and businesses. Those at the end of the line, the last 5 percent that we are desperate to get to."
Regulation expected to be outlined next week will now mandate that broadband providers must be able to offer every home and business in the country a connection of at least 10Mbps by 2020. It is currently unclear whether extra funding will be made available to ensure the plan is completed. The government has already given BT £1b of taxpayers' funds to extend broadband availability in rural areas.
BT already has its own ambitions to make faster broadband more widely available. It intends to raise the minimum broadband speed to 5-10Mbps by the end of 2020 although it's now clear this will not satisfy Cameron's government. The provider also wants to connect 10 million homes to broadband with "ultrafast" speeds of 300-500Mbps by the end of 2020.
The new regulation will place broadband at a similar status to essential services including water and electricity. It is argued that such a potentially transformative technology should not be limited to the wealthy few who live in urban areas.
Vaizey told Radio 4: "We're going to put in place this regulation, that we're going to consult on at the beginning of next year, to make sure that if you're in that last 5 percent [of people without fast broadband], you can demand, and you'll get it."
Every member of the public will be given a legal right to ask for an "affordable" broadband connection of at least 10Mbps if their line does not currently support that speed. It will give people who are stuck with sluggish connections of 3Mbps or less a whole new experience of the Internet, opening the door to new opportunities online.
The UK government has a history of promising faster broadband. In 2010, Cameron's coalition with the Liberal Democrats promised the country would have the most extensive superfast service in Europe by 2015. In 2012, it revised the pledge to claim the UK would have the fastest broadband of any "major" European country by 2015. Throughout the claims, the government has referred to fast broadband as being in excess of 10Mbps and superfast being greater than 24Mbps. UK communications regulator sets its own threshold for superfast at 30Mbps, a not insignificant discrepancy.
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