A minimum speed of 10Mbps could be a huge improvement, but by the time 2020 arrives, it could still be too slow
A minimum speed of 10Mbps could be a huge improvement, but by the time 2020 arrives, it could still be too slow

David Cameron reveals plans to give everyone a legal right to fast broadband by 2020

The Prime Minister wants everyone to have access to 10Mbps internet by 2020

Doug Bolton
Monday 09 November 2015 14:12

The Government has announced plans to give everyone in the UK a fast broadband connection of at least 10 megabits per second (mbps) by 2020.

The plans would give everyone in the country a legal right to request a fast broadband connection through a Universal Service Obligation (USO) by the end of the current parliament.

This kind of connection is standard for most people living in cities, but in some remote rural areas, where providers are reluctant to offer a fast service for a relatively small number of users, it's a luxury that is hard to come by.

Prime Minister David Cameron spoke on Monday about the new plans, which would put internet access in a similar class to water and electricity servics - basic utilities, which should be available to everyone.

He said: "Access to the internet shouldn't be a luxury, it should be a right - absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century 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."

Consultations on the plan are set to begin next year, but Labour has expressed concerns about the plan's potential delivery date.

Chi Onwurah MP, the Shadow Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, said: "For people and businesses struggling with slow and non-existent broadband, this announcement of another five years on the broadband back-burner will ring hollow."

The government has said the universal broadband will be "affordable", but there are no indications on exactly how much it will cost.

And given the government's track record on the superfast broadband scheme, which has faced delays and spiralling costs on the way to bringing 1Gbps internet to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017, Labour has questions on how the plan will be delivered.

Still, if it succeeds, the new standard speed would be huge improvement.

Under the current Universal Service Commitment (that's the USC, different from the USO), internet users have to have access to a speed of at least 28.8Kbps. The government wants to increase this speed to 2Mbps by the end of this year.

If everyone does indeed have access to a 10Mbps connection by 2020, that would represent a 43-fold increase on the current minimum speed.

The current average internet speed in the UK is 22Mbps - however the plan turns out, rural internet users won't be able to get the same speed as city-dwellers, but it would be a major improvement.

As technology progresses and the internet becomes more ubiquitous, 10Mbps speeds may be seen as laughably slow by the time 2020 arrives - but at the very least, beginning to consider internet access as a basic essential service is a step in the right direction.

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