Jamie Hailstone 27 July 2016

Councils call for action on broadband speeds

Councils call for action on broadband speeds image

Town hall chiefs have called on Whitehall to re-affirm its commitment to minimum broadband speeds across the country.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has today urged the Government to press ahead with plans to create a national minimum speed through a universal service obligation (USO) for broadband providers, which is currently going through Parliament.

Under the USO, everybody will have the legal right to request broadband capable of delivering download speeds of up to 10Mbps by 2020.

The LGA said a national minimum speed is vital to stop thousands of homes and businesses from falling into a ‘digital twilight zone’.

It has also called on the USO standards to be regularly reviewed and upgraded when necessary.

The LGA’s demands come a day after the regulator, Ofcom, called on BT to open up its digital communications network to other competitors.

‘It is paramount that the Government maintains momentum and presses ahead with plans to enshrine the USO in law,’ said the chairman of the LGA’s people and places board, Cllr Mark Hawthorne.

‘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,’ added Cllr Hawthorne.

‘Achieving 10Mbps should just be the start and something to build on because demand for and availability of faster speeds continues to grow. For the farmer applying for funding, the small business processing its invoices or the GP checking the availability of medicines, broadband is communities' lifeblood.’

Minister of state for digital and culture Matt Hancock said: 'Nine out of ten UK homes and businesses can already get superfast broadband, and Britain is on target to reach 95% coverage by the end of next year.

'But access to fast and reliable broadband is a must these days. So our broadband universal service obligation will give everyone the right to speeds of at least 10 Mbps by 2020.'

'The Digital Economy Bill currently going through Parliament will put this right into law, and make sure this minimum speed can be increased over time,' the minister added.

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